Jean’s Gospel: Monstrum Incertitudinis

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138 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    I’m very pleased that Jean has written for us and done a classic exposition of the doctrine of the Reformation.

    Much thanks to Jean…and we’ll give Xenia an equal platform if she would like.

    Now, if I could only find a Calvinist… 🙂

  2. Jean says:

    Thank you Michael!

  3. Paige says:

    Thank you Jean! I am slowly, steadily recovering from the wounds of that monster….

  4. Dallas says:

    This brings to mind a story I heard a couple weeks ago about a hospice chaplain who was retelling an encounter that he had with a dying patient. He was visiting him, and nearly the first words that came out of the dying man’s mouth were that he was ready to die, that he looked forward to being with his savior. I don’t work in that environment, so maybe I’m off base in thinking this, but I would assume that this would be the point where comfort, encouragement, and prayer would come in… anything the man needed. That wasn’t what happened. He proceeded to badger the man with questions, apparently to make sure that his soteriology was solid enough for him to be saved. After hearing the stream of questions that came at this man on his death bed, I was mortified at the “care” that was provided.

    It’s Jesus not enough?

  5. Michael says:


    You’re right.
    I remember when a believed member of our congregation was nearing death…I asked if she was ready…and she just glowed with assurance.

    Interrogation would have been horribly sinful at that point…

  6. Jean says:

    Dallas, Thank you for sharing. The Gospel is simple enough that even little children are saved by it. When near my last breath, I would love to hear God’s absolution pronounced to me one last time, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

  7. Jean says:

    Great to hear Paige!

  8. Dallas says:

    Thrown into contrast by the many stories my wife has told me over the years working in nursing homes, and knowing believers who were absolutely terrified of death because they have been fed a steady diet of uncertainty their whole lives it hit me pretty hard. Didn’t hurt that she was already hopping mad about it.

    It’s sad. And I don’t want to go around assigning motives, but really… Why?

  9. This will be going on in thousands of churches tomorrow morning.
    “If you find people asking you questions, such as: “can I be sure of my salvation?” or “how can I know for sure if I’m saved?”, then you might just have Monstrum Incertitudinis lurking in your church.”

    This isn’t a matter of the pewsters asking themselves this — this will be bellowed out from the pulpit of most evangelical churches as pastors will be telling unbelievers that they have a decision to make and telling the faithful that they need to look inside themselves and ask if they are really genuine followers of Christ. The gospel is outside of us – why in the world do we ask people to look within? Why do we ask people to judge their own salvation when it was a gift given to them?

    At those dastardly moments when a pastor plants those seeds of doubt within his own parishioners – we see not only the Monster of Uncertainty – we see Satan himself perched in the pulpit.

  10. btw – great article Jean.

  11. Steve Wright says:

    I’m teaching the last half of chapter seven of Matthew tomorrow – how Jesus wraps up the entire Sermon on the Mount.

    Is the argument placed forward here that there are NOT people deceived about their salvation? Despite what Jesus clearly says there.

    Why does it always seem to be all or nothing, either/or. Why can’t we assure people of their salvation but first probe a little to see if such assurance is warranted less the Spirit of God be bringing a legit conviction to a lost sinner?

    I’ll share the story told me once . About the elderly saint close to death asked the “are you ready” question who said, yes, and was dared to be asked, why. Her answer was because of how she had served at the church she attended her whole life. Her Christianity equated to little more than being a faithful member in a club – no mention of a Savior.The pastor who taught the gospel faithfully could not believe she could sit under the message of the free grace of God all those years and somehow still equate her salvation to her faithfulness and not the Lord’s. Fortunately he asked the question and had opportunity to share the truth of the gospel to her.

    I agree with so much of this article, and certainly agree with the doctrine behind it. But the expression in certain places just seems to go beyond the cautions of Scripture.

    I love to assure people about the grace of God and our salvation being assured in Christ. I do pretty much each Sunday at some point. But God forbid I try to undermine the work of the Holy Spirit Who just very well might be bringing conviction to a self-deceived sinner who otherwise is going to be a textbook example of what Jesus was warning about at the end of the Sermon on the Mount.

    (One other thing we give to God besides our sins is the glory due His Name. Commanded to do so. We worship Him in spirit and truth. He seeks such we are told.)

  12. Jean says:

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for commenting. You’ve brought up some good points, which I will respond to briefly:

    “Is the argument placed forward here that there are NOT people deceived about their salvation?”

    No, deception comes from two sources – False teaching and/or self-deception. At my church, we do 2 things to combat this problem: (1) If anyone comes in from a different tradition, the pastor takes them through a multi-session catechesis on the basics of Christianity; and (2) Justification by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ’s substitutionary death for our sins alone, is the taught virtually weekly to believers and non-believers alike through the liturgy, hymnody and/or sermon. Point (2) in particular is probably the best weapon against self-deception, because Satan attacks believers to try and pry them away from trust in Christ towards trusting in themselves or another idol.

    Therefore, believers should be reminded regularly about both: (a) their own sin (through preaching of the Law), so that they do not become self-righteous, and also, (b) especially, that Jesus took those sins away from them and gave them his righteousness and many other gifts (through the preaching of the Gospel), so they do not despair of their sin and are secure in their salvation.

    “Why can’t we assure people of their salvation but first probe a little to see if such assurance is warranted less the Spirit of God be bringing a legit conviction to a lost sinner?” I don’t think anyone is opposed to that if done on the basis of correct doctrine and in a sensitive manner given the situation.

    “(One other thing we give to God besides our sins is the glory due His Name. Commanded to do so. We worship Him in spirit and truth. He seeks such we are told.)”

    This statement confuses Law and Gospel. (1) We are commanded to give God the glory due his Name, but we cannot keep that commandment very well; (2) Because of our inability to keep the Law perfectly, Law-keeping cannot justify man before God; (3) Therefore, God has given us the Gospel so that we can be justified apart from the Law; and (4) It is only after a person is saved that he can even begin to give God glory. Prior to conversion, the pagan is hostile to God.

  13. I think Steve’s example in his reply shows the problem. He has laid out the case that this lady’s salvation is not dependent on the work of Jesus or His promises of salvation, but is determined by how well she can express her salvation.

  14. Jean says:

    The question of “deception” reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector recorded in the 18th Chapter of Luke’s Gospel. Both of these men were taught from the exact same Scriptures. Yet, one of these men thought he was righteous because of the things he did and did not do, while the other man requested mercy because he regarded himself simply as a sinner (i.e., a beggar before God). Jesus said the tax collector was the only one who went away justified.

    What was the cause of these polar opposite individuals? We know it wasn’t their religion or Scriptures. Was it, therefore, their respective teachers and/or their own receptivity to God’s Word? Competent teaching of God’s Word is something we can pursue (as clergy and laity), but each individual’s receptivity to God’s Word is in the hands of the Holy Spirit. That brings us back to the parable of the sower.

  15. Xenia says:

    Michael. Thanks for the kind invitation to write an opposing essay but I will decline for the time being. Today is Palm Sunday, Holy Week is beginning, and I have too many things on my plate at the moment to give such an essay the attention it deserves. Thanks again.

    Hosanna, everybody!

  16. Xenia says:

    Also, such an essay would require that I refute the entire Reformation. The differences are so great between what Jean has presented and what Orthodoxy believes that I would have to write a book, not just a blog post.

  17. Babylon's Dread says:

    When the Gospel is seen in terms of destination rather than identity these questions are supreme. I now see most of this discussion as a colossal hijacking of the narrative. This is not intended to reject the careful thinking of the participants. It was forced upon me by reading, musing and realizing that I have so little interaction to make with these categories.

    So I tried to wonder the genesis of such thoughts. I realize that the Reformation grew out of a soil in which identity as Christian was given at birth. A baptized culture had to reckon with the realities that so many had no personal identification with Christ other than the expected participation in the community.

    Christianity arose as a real challenge to Jewish identity and forced upon them the question of who am I? Its inclusion of the Gentiles furthered that conundrum. Paul’s centering of Gospel identity upon identity “in Christ” rather than circumcision heightened the conflict.

    In the New Covenant the family of faith is identified by the reception of the Spirit. In the first century there was no cultural value placed upon being “in Christ.” To be identified as His was a detriment in both Jewish and Gentile communities. In such settings there is not much room for wondering whether you are really a Christian. Of course that question rises with the second generation more than the first.

    Anyway, I do not reject the parsing of these categories I just muse at the reality that they sound so foreign.

  18. Michael says:


    More than anything , my offer was intended to let you know that the heavily Protestant theology expressed in no way undermines our love and respect for you here.
    You’ve always had an open invitation to write anytime you choose.

  19. Xenia says:

    I have so little interaction to make with these categories.<<<

    That's what prevents me from writing an essay here. All the categories would have to be examined (and mostly refuted) piece by piece. And for what purpose? Who here will change their mind? I don't have the energy for this and all the exhausting back and forth it would generate.

  20. Xenia says:

    Hi Michael, I know that and I appreciate it. I was tempted to start work on a rebuttal and got exhausted just thinking about it. But I know you are being fair and again, I appreciate it.

  21. Michael says:

    “I certainly admit to them that faith is the proper and entire work of the Holy Spirit, illumined by whom we recognize God and the treasures of His kindness, and without whose light our mind is so blinded that it can see nothing; so dull that it can sense nothing of spiritual things. But for one blessing of God which they proclaim, we recognize three.

    For the first, the Lord teaches and instructs us by his Word. Secondly, he confirms it by the sacraments. Finally, he illumines our minds by the light of his Holy Spirit and opens our hearts for the Word and sacraments to enter in, which would otherwise only strike our ears and appear before our eyes, but not at all affect us within.”


  22. Michael says:


    Everyone hijacks the narrative to a degree.
    To be more accurate we all shrink the narrative to focus on what makes us distinctive.

    I’m bone tired of the modern canard that denies there is a destination at the end of the kingdom, so you have your own share of the blame…you just drive what has been hijacked in a different direction.

    When life demands that you wrestle with your own mortality you will desire to affirm both your identity and your destination.

    Trust me on this…

  23. Jean says:

    Xenia, I second Michael’s wishes and respect expressed about you. Usually, I take something valuable away from all of your comments.

  24. Xenia says:

    I think an easy way to explain the difference between Reformation theology and Orthodoxy is that (some) Protestants see the salvation arena as a courtroom, with legal terms and contracts. God holds up His end of the contract, we hold up our end,* and heaven is the outcome. Orthodoxy sees the salvation arena as a hospital. We come to Christ, Who heals us. We don’t talk about contracts or covenants, we talk about recovering the Image of God. We use medical terms: the Eucharist is the Medicine of Immortality, for instance. We are very interested in our final destination but we are also interested in living our lives in Christ and becoming more like Him while we are still on the earth.

    * What constitutes “our end” differs among the denominations.

  25. Xenia says:

    Thanks, Jean.

  26. Jean says:

    “Anyway, I do not reject the parsing of these categories I just muse at the reality that they sound so foreign.”

    I take the point of your entire comment. But, the question becomes, where do you began? Christology? Justification? Kingdom? Eschatology? To an extent, they are interrelated.

    My article was focused on a specific issue, and the thread is drifting, but the Lord and Michael permitting, over a series of articles, perhaps we can sketch a broader picture of the Lord’s teaching of justification. Many of us believe that the Bible’s teaching of God in Christ reconciling the world is the most important teaching and desire of God revealed in his Word. So that is where I intend to focus. Please hang in here and provoke discussion if you see any blind spots.

  27. JoelG says:

    This reminds me of one of my favorite Michael Spencer quotes….

    “Here’s where I am. When it comes time for me to die, I’ll only have one work to do. All the options will be gone. We don’t like to think about that, because we like to see our lives as full of all the options of youth, vigor, work, opportunity to change and the results of effort. We’re going to do better, we say. But in the end, the only “work” we can do will be to trust ourselves to God. Simple. Beautiful, in its way.

    Faith will be the only work. Exactly as Jesus said in John 6:28. “Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.””

  28. Jean says:


    Just want to make sure you are aware of who is doing the work in John 6:29. I wasn’t sure from your comment.

  29. Muff Potter says:

    I trust in his very person (Messiah) and nothing more.

  30. JoelG says:

    He is doing the work through His Word. Our faith is a gift, not of our own doing.

  31. Mr Jesperson says:

    I for one honestly found a problem with some of the way this article was worded. I am not picking just on Lutherans, but on systematic theology in general. I see a tendency in theologians to do four things that introduce error: 1) Oversimplify in order to come up with a simple answer to a very complex question. 2) Over parse Scripture to the point that the theologian sees trees that do not actually exist in the forest of what God has written. 3) Take things too far by doing logical card stacking (a fallacy) and ignoring other Scriptures which quite clearly contradict the point at hand. 4) Getting overly intellectual which results in a refusal to admit that there is mystery and not everything about God can be fully explained. There are likely more problems as well. Smart intellectual people like myself have a tendency to think too much of our own ability to think and to be honest it gets me and others into frequent problems. Sometimes I wonder if we place more faith in our ability to think than in the actual person of God.
    I personally have assurance of my salvation. To be honest it is based on two things. The literal Word of God (not the flawed systematic theologies of man) and my personal relationship with Jesus. I have seen Him and I know Him. Jesus has worked in my life to take away a great deal of fear. I do not see the problem of “assurance” as being only intellectual, but also relational. I have believed the Word and afterwards I have seen aspects of heaven and family members who have died and yet are still alive. So I will throw down the gauntlet for Jean and MLD in this case. If what you say is the whole sum of the truth with nothing left out, then why does Jesus say this instead of quoting your systematic theology? Is Jesus wrong because he appears to contradict Lutheran theology?
    The Sheep and the Goats
    31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
    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 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
    40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
    44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
    45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
    46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

  32. Paul A. Lytton says:

    I have no idea what God thinks, how He feels or if He can change His mind. None of that is any of my business. The only thing I am concerned about is that God is the only container, full of nothing but pure righteousness; and that is something for me to fear. Mainly because I contain NO righteousness and that makes me an obvious enemy of His. Enemies only have one of two choices. Either they each fight against the other’s strength, or one submits to the other’s strength. Making a choice is by definition taking action towards one direction or the other.

    I have previously been informed here (wrongly in my opinion) that my belief of submitting to God FOR salvation (In other words, a need to accept His offer), is actually my thinking that an action of my own is needed in order for me to be saved, which supposedly contradicts salvation my grace.

    Let’s make sense here. If absolutely NO action of a person is required to be saved, then the only alternative is that God either saves all people or He created some people for the purpose of them going to hell.

    I agree that Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who put Him on the Cross because, “They know not what they do”. Now anyone can say to me, “Didn’t Jesus forgive them without the need for them to take the action of submitting to Him?” However, there is a difference here.

    First of all, I do not believe that Jesus was asking the Father to forgive their souls so they can go to heaven, Jesus was asking the Father to not be harsh on them for just that particular action. This is arguably similar to a child going to heaven because of not knowing what he/she is doing verses a person sinning while being aware of what sin is.

    Jesus told people to, “Follow me”, (A direct requirement of them to take an action). He did NOT say, “Whether you follow me or not, you will go through the gate.”

    In short, my understanding of there being a need for me to take the action of accepting the Gospel is not contrary to Salvation by Grace. It is Salvation by the ‘offer’ of Grace; and not Salvation of ‘imposed’ Grace. Imposed Grace is an oxymoron.

  33. Em again says:

    Before i get too deep in the thread, i deeply resent the accusation that thousands of churches were planting seeds of doubt in the minds of the Redeemed ones this morning. Are you sure you are saved can be asked of any church attendee of any denomination. It can and probably is asked wrongly in some gatherings, yes.
    But remember the discussion on is America a Christian nation? I think the conclusion here was that that claim was a delusion based on a false historical belief. Likewise, a regular Lutheran or a Pentecostal church attendee, or any other, may never doubted that they are a member of the family of God simply because their family has roots in the church.
    I know about the claim of the efficacy of the sacraments made by the Roman Catholics and others and i’m reminded that there is a scripture addressing a problem that may arise from that view. Matthew 15:18 or Mark 7:6
    So, there is IMV good reason to ask the question, but not as it is being presented here, of course. The question is valid, but never meant to be a taunt.

    Promised myself i’d just lurk today – i am a promise breaker, i guess… but nothing more to comment, nor elaborate today

  34. Michael says:

    Calvin on Matt 25:34 and following…

    34. Come, you blessed of my Father. We must remember Christ’s design; for he bids his disciples rest satisfied now with hope, that they may with patience and tranquillity of mind look for the enjoyment of the heavenly kingdom; and next, he bids them strive earnestly, and not become wearied in the right course.

    To this latter clause he refers, when he promises the inheritance of the heavens to none but those who by good works aim at the prize of the heavenly calling. But before speaking of the reward of good works, he points out, in passing, that the commencement of salvation flows from a higher source; for by calling them blessed of the Father, he reminds them, that their salvation proceeded from the undeserved favor of God.

    Among the Hebrews the phrase blessed of God means one who is dear to God, or beloved by God. Besides, this form of expression was not only employed by believers to extol the grace of God towards men, but those who had degenerated from true godliness still held this principle. Enter, thou blessed of God, said Laban to Abraham’s servant, (Genesis 24:31.) We see that nature suggested to them this expression, by which they ascribed to God the praise of all that they possessed. There can be no doubt, therefore, that Christ, in describing the salvation of the godly, begins with the undeserved love of God, by which those who, under the guidance of the Spirit in this life, aim at righteousness, were predestined to life.

    To this also relates what he says shortly afterwards, that the kingdom, to the possession of which they will be appointed at the last day, had been prepared for them from the beginning of the world. For though it may be easy to object, that the reward was laid up with a view to their future merits, any person who will candidly examine the words must acknowledge that there is an implied commendation of the grace of God. Nay more, Christ does not simply invite believers to possess the kingdom, as if they had obtained it by their merits, but expressly says that it is bestowed on them as heirs.

    Yet we must observe another object which our Lord had in view. For though the life of the godly be nothing else than a sad and wretched banishment, so that the earth scarcely bears them; though they groan under hard poverty, and reproaches, and other afflictions; yet, that they may with fortitude and cheerfulness surmount these obstacles, the Lord declares that a kingdom is elsewhere prepared for them. It is no slight persuasive to patience, when men are fully convinced that they do not run in vain; and therefore, lest our minds should be east, down by the pride of the ungodly, in which they give themselves unrestrained indulgences—lest our hope should even be weakened by our own afflictions, let us always remember the inheritance which awaits us in heaven; for it depends on no uncertain event, but was prepared for us by God before we were born,—prepared, I say, for each of the elect, for the persons here addressed by Christ are the blessed of the Father.

    When it is here said only that the kingdom was prepared from the beginning of the world, while it is said, in another passage, that it was prepared before the creation of heaven and of earth, (Ephesians 1:4) this involves no inconsistency. For Christ does not here fix the precise time when the inheritance of eternal life was appointed for the sons of God, but only reminds us of God’s fatherly care, with which he embraced us before we were born; and confirms the certainty of our hope by this consideration, that our life can sustain no injury from the commotions and agitations of the world.

  35. Michael says:

    35. For I was hungry. If Christ were now speaking of the cause of our salvation, the Papists could not be blamed for inferring that we merit eternal life by good works; but as Christ had no other design than to exhort his people to holy and upright conduct, it is improper to conclude from his words what is the value of the merits of works.

    With regard to the stress which they lay on the word for, as if it pointed out the cause, it is a weak argument; for we know that, when eternal life is promised to the righteous, the word for does not always denote a cause, but rather the order of procedure.

    But we have another reply to offer, which is still more clear; for we do not deny that a reward is promised to good works, but maintain that it is a reward of grace, because it depends on adoption. Paul boasts (2 Timothy 4:8) that a crown of righteousness is laid up for him; but whence did he derive that confidence but because he was a member of Christ, who alone is heir of the heavenly kingdom? He openly avows that the righteous Judge will give to him that crown; but whence did he obtain that prize but because by grace he was adopted, and received that justification of which we are all destitute?

    We must therefore hold these two principles, first, that believers are called to the possession of the kingdom of heaven, so far as relates to good works, not because they deserved them through the righteousness of works, or because their own minds prompted them to obtain that righteousness, but because God justifies those whom he previously elected, (Romans 8:30.) Secondly, although by the guidance of the Spirit they aim at the practice of righteousness, yet as they never fulfill the law of God, no reward is due to them, but the term reward is applied to that which is bestowed by grace.

  36. Em again says:

    Matthew 15:18 is relevant, but it was a typo… Matthew 15:8 was what came to mind @ #33

  37. Em, can you tell us how you would properly challenge someone’s salvation without it coming back to challenging what they did or what they are now doing?

  38. Em again says:

    i was a cheeky child, i think – when my mother would declare that i had to do something, i realized and said, that no i didn’t (have to do thus and so) – the only thing that i HAD to do was be born and die!
    a bit presumptuous and simplistic… well, maybe more than a ‘bit’
    it occurs to me as i read here this morning that this is, nevertheless, a fact and it applies to the Kingdom birth also… in a way… we are not born into God’s of our own will… but, perhaps, if we understand grace we will choose to conduct ourselves in a manner that does credit to God’s Kingdom, eh?

  39. My class today was Matthew 19 – the section on divorce. Most of the time I spent on context which is relevant to the verses Em posted.

    The passage on divorce is not to Christians – it’s not even a passage on how to have a long happy marriage and it the end is not even about divorce — but about how people challenge God. Without that context, divorced folks are once again put under law and guilt.

    Em, in the passages you posted, are they to the Christians or to the enemies of Christ?

  40. Jean says:

    Mr. Jesperson at #31,

    If your Matthew citation was for the purpose of including good works in God’s plan of salvation, I can reply. A good tree producing good fruit. A bad tree cannot produce good fruit. Fruit can’t produce a tree or produce itself without any tree. The tree must come first; then the fruit.

    There is a inseparable connection between justification and good works, but (1) good works are not a part of justification, and (2) justification always comes before good works.

    If on any of these points you would like biblical support, please let us know your specific concern.

  41. Mr. J,
    “I personally have assurance of my salvation. To be honest it is based on two things. The literal Word of God (not the flawed systematic theologies of man) and my personal relationship with Jesus.”

    This IS my body — This IS my blood = do you go by this literal word of God or in this case do you stick to some systematic devise?

    But I do agree that for salvation we take the literal word of God – he has placed promises in his word that He has done all the work for us.

  42. Em again says:

    #38 wasn’t a response to #37…

    MLD, your question makes me smile as i remember my mother, who had disdain for my new birth, would say, “Well, if you call yourself a Christian aren’t you required to honor me and do as i say?” She was right… and she was wrong…

    you ask, how would i challenge someone’s salvation, if not by their works? … we can each examine ourselves and can be reminded to do so graciously – 2 Cor. 13:5 comes to mind… ( or is it 2Cor. 13:5 )

    no, i do not have to FEEL sorry for my sins, but i do have to agree that i have sinned and when aware of committing an offense, can we just say forgive us our debts as a blanket request with no confession – with an attitude of, “who cares, we’re all just sinners and so that’s what we do?” isn’t there a difference between resting in grace and mindless lip service?

    sigh, i wasn’t going to get sucked into commenting today 🙂

  43. JoelG says:

    “And thus it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate burning and shining from fire. Beware, therefore, of your own false notions and of the idle talkers, who would be wise enough to make decisions about faith and good works, and yet are the greatest fools.”

    – Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans

  44. Jean says:

    “In short, my understanding of there being a need for me to take the action of accepting the Gospel is not contrary to Salvation by Grace. It is Salvation by the ‘offer’ of Grace; and not Salvation of ‘imposed’ Grace. Imposed Grace is an oxymoron.”

    Paul at #32,

    Your comment was perhaps the fundamental difference that Luther had with Rome and he wrote a book about it called, On the Bondage of the Will. In his book Luther shows that because of man’s fall into sin, the pre-Christian man’s will is not neutral towards god, but is actually hostile to God; it is bound in opposition to God’s will.

    We are not mere spectators in spiritual matters, who if presented with an offer of God’s grace can take Him up on it. Out of 1,000 offers, we will choose God’s grace 0 out of 1,000 times.

    God does not force us accept His grace. When he gives it to us (by His means of grace), we can reject that grace. The rejection is on us. But, what God does not do is say: “I have some grace for you, if you say ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘commit to follow me’, etc.”

  45. Mr J,
    If you read the beginning of the Matthew passage you will see that Jesus seaparates the people because of who they are — not because of what they have done. They have always been sheep (they were never goats who do no good works and get turned into sheep by now doing good works – as is preached in many churches) the text says they were sheep from before creation.

    Then it says something really cool. They are to come and collect their inheritance. Mr J, can I ask what one needs to do to collect and inheritance? Do you work to earn an inheritance?

    Then Jesus goes on to state what the fruit of them being sheep is — of which they had no idea that they were doing.

    So contrary to your point, they did not follow a plan to become sheep and their is no plan of salvation to change goats into sheep.

  46. Em again says:

    #39 – enemies of Christ? at the time Jesus spoke, he spoke those words to a mixed gathering and did so – IMV – to instruct the humble seekers of Truth; the recording of those words would have been a waste, if only spoken for the benefit of the “enemies of Christ.”

    enough – God keep

  47. Em – I can’t tell you what to do, but as I said to my class “you must read in context” – he was asked a question by the enemies of God and he was directly addressing them.”

    I noticed you quoted only 1 verse 15:8 but the verse is contained in the 1-9 passage.

  48. I just read Xenia’s #24 at 9:02am – I must has sped right by it.
    “God holds up His end of the contract, we hold up our end,* and heaven is the outcome.”

    This may be the protestant view (I haven’t thought that far yet) – but it is not the Lutheran view and I think that is why I took the position I did early…. there is no “our end”.

    Go back to the covenant God made with Abraham in I think Gen 15. God put Abraham to sleep and God walked among the chunks of meat on his own – taking up both sides of the covenant. So, when Abraham and his seed could not keep up the covenant who was the responsible party? Who made the covenant and assumed all responsibility for the broken covenant? Who was required to die for this action? Whose end was not held up?

    The answer to all those questions is GOD!! And this is why God had to die on the cross – it was his responsibility to hold up all “ends of the deal.”

    But I guess you will need to find a protestant to answer for their view. 🙂

  49. Mr Jesperson says:

    #45 Your take on the passage sounds like a Calvinist. You are also technically applying circular logic like the Calvinists. The sheep are predestined to be sheep. The goats are predestined to be goats. That is technically adding something to the original text that is not there. Hence my #2 above. You are also putting words in my mouth which I did not speak. There is another logical fallacy. This conversation though is starting to remind me of a course I took in College about World Religions. Rabbinical Judaism has rabbis, commenting on opinions of rabbis, commenting on rabbis, etc. Hard to find discussions on actual Old Testament texts. Here there is more commenting on dead Christian rabbis then on the actual texts themselves. Word for thought.

  50. Michael says:

    Mr. Jesperson,

    I sound like a Calvinist, not MLD.

    That would be because I’m a Calvinist. 🙂

    So in your belief, when were the elect chosen?
    My bible says before the foundation of the world.
    What does yours say?
    How do heirs work for their inheritance?

  51. Uriahisaliveandwell says:

    Mr. Jesperson,

    Precisely, in my not so popular or invited opinion. Jesus warned the Pharisees and Sadducees of this as well, who were never once approved by Jesus as they were the dominating Jewish leaders (being assigned through a Hellenistic Greek governing authority about 300 years B.C.) Nevertheless, Jesus used the Old Testament to call back the people to living life that was holy and bearing witness to others, while also bearing examples in word and in deed just what that meant. Even before going to the cross and then home to be with Our Father in heaven.

  52. Mr J,
    I am Lutheran and I am not a Calvinist by any means. However, I do like how you now run away from the clear literal words of scripture that you boasted of earlier. For you to even challenge my thoughts as Calvinism and poking around Wikipedia for your interpretation of the passage, shows you to not be truthful – you are running to man’s systematics.

    The words are simple – I ask you, are not the sheep already sheep when he separates them from the goats?
    Do you actually believe that some of the goats became sheep and are now worthy of inheritance?
    Do we work for an inheritance?

    I don’t know if I am supposed to be impressed that you took a World Religions class.

    Try not to be so dismissive, you use it instead of saying “shut up.”
    You brought up the text – I say we deal with the text and the text alone.

  53. Michael says:

    MLD’s questions deal with the text…so answer with the text.

  54. Predestination is not Calvinism or Lutheran – it is biblical and Christian
    “The sheep – who were always sheep were addressed this way – “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

    Note the “prepared for you.”

  55. Em again says:

    MLD, no you probably can’t tell me what to do… that’s been one of my problems in this life 🙂

    however, i did not take the verse out of its context… were the words in response to the Pharisees present? yes but

    IMV, it would not have been recorded for posterity, if not intended to instruct Believers and “seekers” in the ages ahead…

    we cannot add to or sustain our salvation – period – one may be a sorry excuse of a servant, but be certain that your belief in your belief is one that has placed you under the lordship of Jesus Christ

    the erudite handling of the Monster of Uncertainty is really a very simple truth, is it not?
    to lead a child of God to doubt that he is one is… well… a sorry state of affairs all around…

  56. Em again says:

    predestined does not preclude the requirement to come to Faith… it is interesting to think (i do) that we all sprang from one couple – first Adam and Eve and then, to an extent, Noah and his wife (i think that flood was universal)… it seems to be a culling process of some kind that, for my part, i’ll leave up to a Holy God, who knows what he’s doing (that’s part of the Faith thing)

  57. “predestined does not preclude the requirement to come to Faith.”
    1.) When you put it that way you snatch salvation from the hands of God and assume the responsibility to yourself.
    2.) This is probably a huge difference between those out of the Reformation and those out of the Wild West – I do not come to faith — I am brought to faith.

    Come to faith are the Billy Graham crusades where he and the holy Spirit are trying to convince you to “come to faith” (and don’t worry, the buses will wait for you.”)

  58. Mr Jesperson says:

    Actually, there are a number of different directions I see people wanting to go with what I started here. But Michael, let me begin with this, my best friend is a Calvinist engineer. We have a mutual friend who is Anglican with a B.A. is religious studies and has a great emotional problem with who he says Calvin’s God is. Over many years the same arguments have gone on. Nothing changes, certainly not the minds of each other. Until now I have sat on the sidelines watching the exchanges. They are both very much Christian and can get pretty heated in their debates. Yet they are brothers who help each other in practical ways. What do I believe? Every single scripture used by both Calvinists and Armenians in this debate going on for centuries. Can I explain how they all apply to your question, no, I am just smart enough to know I ain’t that smart.

  59. Em again says:

    aren’t we splitting hairs a bit here, MLD?
    i came to Georgia – how did you get here? i came by train – that probably wouldn’t infer that i drove the train (i don’t say that the train came and got me)

    and by the way, if someone says that they came to faith in Christ, you’d better not mess with their heads by saying, “no you didn’t…”

    i sense how important it is to you and yours to be certain that all is done by God, Himself… but for clarity’s sake, don’t imply that we are zombies lurching along as dead men – we aren’t and i don’t think you think that, either

    we of the second birth are alive in Christ – do you recall when you were dead? i think those of us who can, who didn’t grow up in the Faith, are somewhat privileged because we can recall when we were dead and didn’t know it – i didn’t even know the lights weren’t on…

    God keep

  60. Jean says:

    A couple things I would like to suggest as guidelines for these discussions:

    (1) Let’s try not to focus on which Church father said what. Let’s try as much as possible to share our questions and beliefs based on Scripture. I recognize that all of us interpret Scripture through the lens of our own traditions, however, if we stick to Scripture, perhaps our discussions will be less personal and heated.

    (2) I am first hand evidence that minds on this blog are changed. Two years ago, I was a Wesleyan – that’s Arminian. Begun in the discussions here, and with the aid of a lot of other sources, I have found my home in Lutheranism. I’m not the most open minded person by nature (who is?); but I wasn’t totally closed minded either. There are other people on PP who have changed traditions as well.

    (3) This might be the most important point: Let’s look at Scripture “from below”. In other words, let’s stick to what God has revealed to us in his Word. Let’s not speculate on matters that are not revealed to us in Scripture, because that is a dead end, and frankly none of our concern.

    Let me give you an example of point (3): If someone asked me, how do I know if I’m of the elect? Answer: God elected me by sending me a preacher who preached the Holy Spirit into my ears through His words of Law and Gospel. I don’t wonder about what God was thinking before the foundation of the world. What’s important to me, is He elected me through the office of preaching. If the guy sitting next to me in the pew didn’t believe God’s word given in that very same sermon and died that afternoon a unbeliever, well then he wasn’t of the elect. Why me and not him? None of my business. God didn’t reveal his reasons.

  61. Paul A. Lytton says:


    Perhaps my main problem is not being able to take on an extreme of one way or the other without weighing in all of the gray area in-between. That may be where people see me as applying my own works for salvation while I only see it as a sincere effort to understand what I am dealing with.

    Thank you for your #44 response. In it you stated, “But, what God does not do is say: “I have some grace for you, if you say ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘commit to follow me’, etc.”

    I fully agree that God does not say that I must say “please” or even “thank you”. However; in fact, Jesus did require people to “follow” Him. “I am the door”. If He is the door, we have to go where the door is to go through it.

    The way I connect the Old Testament (old covenant) with the New is through the requirement of God to be able to go to Heaven. “Being righteous”

    Of course none of us will ever come anywhere close to that, on our own. But God made a way for us to inherit righteousness. His making that way (the gospel) is His Grace upon us. However to the best of my knowledge I believe we still obtain the freedom of being able to make a choice. I do not see anywhere in the Bible where mankind was no longer allowed to make a choice.

    Yes, our nature is in opposition to Righteousness (God’s will) but we still have the choice to take pride in it, or to be ashamed of it. In #44 you admitted, “God does not force us accept His grace. When he gives it to us (by His means of grace), we can reject that grace. The rejection is on us.”

    This is evidence of choice, to accept or to reject. As you well stated, “God does not force us..”

    My mere point is that there IS something I must do in order to be Saved. I must accept the offer of Grace and that is in no way contrary to salvation by Grace alone.

    Accepting grace that does not exist is grace by my works. Accepting grace that is offered is Salvation.

  62. Dallas says:

    I admit that I am just quibbling over details, but the rhetorical question, “do you work for an inheritance” has been asked a couple times. I get that the inheritance itself was generally a birthright, part of being born into a family for the most part, but wouldn’t there have been a cultural assumption that the children would help in maintaining the family fortune that would become their inheritance?

    Wasn’t that part of the reason that the older son was ticked at the prodigal, as well as his father.

  63. Michael says:

    Calvin and Luther would both cough up hairballs over this thread.

    There is so very little understanding of why the Reformation was even needed among evangelicals today.

    Oh well…

  64. Em again says:

    my apologies for the loose fur, Michael 🙂

  65. “Calvin and Luther would both cough up hairballs over this thread.”
    I don’t think there is any doubt that today’s American Evangelicals are functional Roman Catholics. Take away the Mary worship and the church trappings and there will sit the evangelical.

    Oh, they won’t call it “doing works” to be saved – but Xenia described it beautifully in her #24 (which I commented on at #48) when she said “God holds up His end of the contract, we hold up our end, and heaven is the outcome.” So much of an evangelical evangelistic message is telling the prospect what his end of the contract is.

    After ‘salvation’ under the guise of sanctification (ripped out of it’s context of justification) 100% of the message is how the Christian now upholds his end of the deal.

  66. luke says:

    #58 Every single scripture used by both Calvinists and Armenians in this debate going on for centuries.

    It’s Arminians, NOT Armenians.

    Armenia is a nation and former Soviet republic.

  67. JoelG says:

    “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

    This doesn’t sound much like a “contract” to me.

  68. Joel – no one is arguing against “good works”, because good works flow naturally through the Christian. John 15 explains clearly that the good works are in Christ and he sends them our way.
    There is no such thing as a Christian who not only doesn’t do good works, but one who does not do all of the good works that Jesus has delivered. Hence the Ephesians passage. God provides the grace, God provides the faith to receive the grace and God provides the Good Works – which is the only way a Christian can walk.

    Note – only a Christian can do Good Works. The problem is that people mistaken bad behavior for a lack of Good works – and they are 2 separate things.

  69. Here is a more perplexing issue – how can Chris Hatcher have a line like this

    0.1 2 3 3 1 0

    And still get a hold?

  70. JoelG says:

    I hear you MLD. I was using this verse to contrast the evangelical idea of a “contract” that we have to hold up. Likw you say, it’s all a gift, prepared beforehand by God. This is liberating.

  71. JoelG says:

    That line is a work prepared beforehand in his vocation as a pitcher. Who am I to judge?

  72. JoelG says:

    “that we should walk in them.”

    This DOES imply that we have a part, a decision, to trust Him in and through these Good Works.

  73. Dallas says:

    Just in case given the place of my last comment. My question on the notion of inheritance wasn’t in relation to works based salvation, but more in how far we can reasonably stretch the metaphor.

  74. Jean says:

    Joel and Dallas,

    If I’m understanding your questions accurately, both of them are important questions, but really deserve an article dedicated to the question of sanctification.

    Without trying to write that article here, I would point you to this passage, which I believe at least outlines the answer:

    “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:12-13)

    Once we realize that it is all God’s work, then, once again, let’s not look inward (someone earlier called it belly button theology or navel gazing), but let’s always look outside of ourselves to Christ – the author and finisher of our salvation. Christ and His promises are infinitely more reliable and trustworthy than any commitment or work or law keeping that we could ever gin up.

    God has promised to work in us whenever we listen to his Word (rightly taught) and receive his Sacraments. These we call His “means of grace” because by His Word and Sacraments He shows us is favor towards us, which is the forgiveness of our sins, and grants us His Holy Spirit.

  75. Cash says:

    I don’t come at this question from a theological standpoint but through an experiential one. That is, I have found myself to be a sinner after Christ brought me to Himself. If Christ doesn’t save completely, if any of it depends on me, I am doomed. Because I will go on sinning until that final day of mine on this earth. That’s why I believe it’s all of God, because the other depends on me. I don’t love the things of God. I hate them. I love the things of the flesh. But there is something inside me who does love the things of God. It must be that He put it there with no imput from me. I am 100% sinner, but 100% saint based on Christ’s work on the cross alone. The way I see it. there can be no other way.

  76. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Cash – if we preached that way, folks wouldn’t be in doubt.
    People never doubt God’s part – they doubt only the part they were told to do.

  77. Babylon's Dread says:

    Just a comment thinking from Xenia @34,

    A contract is not a covenant though some covenants are similar to a contract. Let me illustrate. God made covenant with Abraham and there was no contractual obligation upon Abraham who slept while God passed through the bloody sacrifice and swore an oath. On the other hand Moses oversaw a process wherein Israel ultimately ended up in a covenant that functioned more contractually with the obligations required of Israel being essential. I think this is why Paul in Romans and Galatians parses Abraham and Moses… the former he holds tightly the latter he largely jettisons in favor of the New Covenant Spirit

    Now Jean @ 26 and 60, let me suggest that you are doing historical theology rather than simply studying scripture. Your original article asserts a question “how can I be sure I am saved” I really do not see that particular kind of question being asked in scripture. That is a question rooted in the historical conflict of Roman Catholic and Reformation theologies and the outworking of those ideas in evangelicalism.

    Biblical theology takes us far beyond the Arminian v Calvinist controversy which has an actual historical date. Biblical theology seeks original meanings and is an exploding discipline. Of course these disciplines interact as well.

    I thank you for your clarification that you want to examine the doctrine of Justification. I note that you want to minimize the reference to the fathers in the discussion but this group will never be able to do a truly scriptural discussion devoid of traditions. That effort always proves futile. We all do better when we own our tradition and then attempt to press the scriptural foundations.

    I LOVE that you have added your voice to this discussion at a high level. I LOVE your testimony of your own journey. I also LOVE that you have clarified that your real focus is the doctrine of justification. However, the posted article and that confession place you squarely in the 16th century. The best we will likely do is to work out some thoughts about how true that historical theological construction is to the original text and intent of scripture.

  78. Josh the Baptist says:

    Just wanted to pipe in and say thanks to Jean for this well-written post. We obviously disagree on some areas, but I’m trying to take up the new discipline of not having to correct everyone who I think is wrong on the internet 🙂

    I do think Steve’s amendment at #11 is good and needed.

    Also appreciating all of Em’s comments.

  79. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “Biblical theology takes us far beyond the Arminian v Calvinist controversy ” I agree, it drops you right into Lutheran central. 🙂

  80. Jean says:

    Thanks for raising these concerns. Regarding this observation:

    “The best we will likely do is to work out some thoughts about how true that historical theological construction is to the original text and intent of scripture.”

    I will keep this in mind. If we can’t articulate theology consistent with both the original text and intent of scripture, then we are wasting our time.

  81. Josh the Baptist says:

    “Cash – if we preached that way, folks wouldn’t be in doubt.
    People never doubt God’s part – they doubt only the part they were told to do.”

    Ok, ok…but I’m only going to ask the question will not argue.

    There are people in LCMS churches who doubt their salvation. So much so, that they leave after a period. Later they wind up in evangelical churches, and feel assured of their salvation.

    What is the explanation for this phenomenon?

  82. Steve Wright says:

    Dread makes a great point about the distinction between the unconditional covenant with Abraham and the conditional covenant with Israel through Moses and the Law.

    We could add a couple more unconditional covenants (Davidic and New), but Moses is the only conditional covenant we find in Scripture.

    And yes, for something to be defined as a contract there MUST be something called “consideration” between both parties. Your auto or home insurance policy is actually a contract – you have duties under it in order for the insurance company to pay on their end (duties besides simply paying the bill on time)

  83. Steve Wright says:

    Josh, it is odd that the Lutheran doctrine, as MLD says here many times, teaches it is possible to be a Christian and then not be (I hesitate to go further because he likes to nitpick the semantics of the way I express their view so I won’t express any view except make the simple statement)

    Odd of course given the charge that evangelicals around the nation are preaching people to doubt their salvation…

    I taught yesterday on the security of the believer. I have the same view on that as our Calvinist blog host. I also taught it in the context of teaching (not dismissing) the legitimate warnings of Christ found at the end of the Sermon on the Mount.

    I think I presented the doctrinal balance faithfully – without exaggerating any one side over the other

  84. Xenia says:

    Josh, likewise, I attended my whole life churches that believed in Eternal Security and always doubted my salvation and now am a member of a Church that believes one cannot be sure til the very end and I am no longer worried anymore.

  85. Babylon's Dread says:

    The security issue is really easy … if one can cease to believe they can cease to be secure. The believer is always secure. The apostate can never be. The anxious one who is caused to fear because of our tenuous lifestyles is not the one that need fear. It is the one who fears not that should be terrified.

  86. Josh the Baptist says:

    Right, Steve and Xenia – And I think we are all God’s family. I think different individuals have different needs, and God is able to find them in LCMS, SBC, CC, EO, and possibly many others. I know that most here don’t agree with that, and a few here think the thought itself is heresy, but it seems so obvious to me. I don’t doubt for a moment that Xenia found what she needed to grow in faith in the Orthodox church. I also don’t doubt for a moment, that my faith would be crushed in the Orthodox church. To me, that says that God is bigger than any denomination, any systematic theology, and possibly any atonement theory.

    If I had a friend who had dropped out of the baptists church and their faith was teetering on the brink of extinction, I would not hesitate in telling the to try the new LCMS mission in town.

  87. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh & Steve – I made no claim as to who did and did not preach correctly the point of causing doubt.

    Note that I said – and I was very careful in my wording – “if we preached that way…” note the WE.

  88. Josh the Baptist says:

    I’m with you, but I would like an answer to that question. People do doubt their faith in churches just like yours (and in your actual church). Why?

  89. Josh the Baptist says:

    “doubt their faith” should have been “doubt their salvation”

  90. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Because they were taught wrong.
    My point is their is a right and a wrong.
    But if you answer someones doubt with “pray more”, or “seek God more”, or go to another Bible study etc, etc, you are just fueling more doubt.

    The correct answer is, don’t worry – Jesus made the commitment – not you. Jesus did the saving – not you.

  91. Josh the Baptist says:

    OK, answer accepted. Thanks!

  92. Jean says:

    “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. (1 John 2:24)

  93. Em again says:

    i don’t know if nit picking is the best term, but most of the dialogues here do deal with fitting scriptures into our theologies of choice… sometimes good and sometimes a bit strained IMV

    i am pondering the idea that salvation is all of God (i believe that it is) and, yet, one can walk away from it? doesn’t that make it’s efficacy dependent upon our flesh? can we come and go, in and back out and then, maybe, back in again? but it is a necessary stand if one’s salvation is always under the threat of performance and a view that also can be turned to support the threat of “works” salvation that began this thread IMV

    an excerpt from R.B. Thieme: “Since Jesus Christ has done all the WORK necessary, all that is required of us to appropriate salvation is faith. Any other means would be an insult to the Son of God. To add anything to faith would be tantamount to saying that His work was not efficacious, that it was not sufficient. The only thing man does for salvation is believe, accept what the Savior has already done for him, and by doing so, Jesus Christ receives the glory.” – “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” page 57…
    seems simple enough and it is where i rest

    yes, i know God supplies the faith, but that’s another topic we go round on 🙂

  94. Em again says:

    #84 – a comment from an educated thoughtful, desiring God woman IMV… perhaps, what she really doubted was the teachers and perhaps she was right to do so – dunno

  95. JoelG says:

    Em: “And, yet, once can walk away from it?”

    “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.” – Jesus

  96. Em again says:

    #86 – i must amen Josh the B’s observation… the place where one can focus on Christ is where one should be…
    that said, always the danger lurks to turn into pharisees who place their doctrinal interpretations higher than God… kind of like that Old Testament crowd who thought that they could build a tower to God? dunno

  97. Steve Wright says:

    I really have a hard time imagining anyone doubting their salvation from my message yesterday, providing they actually are saved – meaning they have been born again, indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit. I certainly sought to assure them (through Scripture) of that salvation.

    Likewise, it is my tremendous hope that the words of Scripture from Jesus to close the Sermon on the Mount would bring conviction to anyone yesterday playing church and the truth of the gospel proclaimed would lead to salvation.

    But maybe more importantly, I hope those who ARE Christians that heard the message, heard about the love, plan, and strength of the Lord in the storms of life that will be coming their way – that they are motivated to be doers of His commands (much to MLD’s chagrin I am sure) and so to trust Him daily. As has been already said, if the focus is solely on heaven/hell when we die – with no concern for a present life application, then we miss the primary purpose of the teaching of just about every text.

  98. Xenia says:

    providing they actually are saved <<<<

    And that's the rub.

  99. Em again says:

    JoelG (i see i had a typo)… do you realize that you just made my point? we cannot walk away once we are born into God’s family… no matter how long the pursuit, God will find His own

  100. JoelG says:

    Yes Em and this is a great comfort to us.

  101. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Steve, I don’t know why you seem to not read my words but go off what you have stored in your mind as to what you think I say.
    Go up to my #68 @9:12 last night and read out loud (so you hear it in your ears) what I actually say. You will not find me running from good works.

    Also take a stab at my #69 right below it. We have more common ground there.

  102. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “The only thing man does for salvation is believe, accept what the Savior has already done for him, ” (let me say I agree 100%)

    And what happens when one ceases to believe for one reason or another? Let’s consider it rhetorical or even hypothetical so no one has discomfort with unbelievers in heaven.

  103. Xenia says:

    I’ve been thinking about his lately and here’s one possible conclusion as to why I am content at a Church that teaches you can lose your salvation (although we never talk in those terms.)

    The Orthodox Liturgy (and probably all liturgies of truly liturgical churches) does not focus, in fact barely mentions, the state of our salvation. The content of the Liturgy is all about devotion to God. I think when I heard (probably thousands) of evangelical sermons on soteriology, I would get nervous because I was never sure any of it applied to me personally, although I sure hoped it did. All that talk about imputation of righteousness and positional sanctification…. it seemed so dry and alien and it did not seem to apply to me at all. It seemed like excerpts from theology textbooks. If God had indeed imputed His righteousness to me, why was I such a colossal jerk? It seemed like there should be some evidence. But in Orthodoxy, we never hear sermons about how one gets saved. We assume Baptism accomplished that and Communion renews it and gives us strength for the journey. Christ is seen as the Great Physician whose wants to recreate us in His Own dear Image, if we just cooperate with Him. This gives me great comfort because there is nothing I would rather do than cooperate with Christ and even when I stumble, He’s there to catch me and set me aright again. I feel like I have a genuine relationship with the Savior (cooperation with a Person will do that) rather than a relationship with a set of doctrines. I love the devotional aspect of Orthodoxy.

    I realize this experience may be unique to me.

  104. Em again says:

    i think the illustration of the seed was given to us to help us understand just who will walk away from the Faith and not be pursued by God… pray that another time in their lives, their souls will provide good ground and receive salvation? a doctrinally sound hope? dunno

  105. Em again says:

    #102 – what happens when one ceases to believe? depends 🙂

  106. JoelG says:

    Interesting Xenia. Thanks for sharing that. My old CC Pastor described our life as Christians as a “dance” with God, with Him in the lead.

  107. Em again says:

    #103 – doctrines and sermons that don’t leave you focused on Christ are useless at best – perhaps there is a place for advise and counsel among Christians, of course there is, but i think i see your point

  108. Em again says:

    #100 – a huge AMEN, Joel

  109. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Well the seeds parable is very specific that some did receive the salvation – not only received it but received it with great joy … and for whatever was going on in their life they gave up the precious prize that was given to them. This fits like a glove with all the warning passages.

  110. Xenia says:

    This may only be my perception, and it’s possible that I perceived things wrongly, but the theology I was taught for most of my life seemed to regard Christ as a principle, not as a lovable Person. It was all about “our position in Christ” but not so much about Christ Himself. Christ seemed like an abstract idea, a piece in the salvation puzzle, imputing this and imparting that. While those things may be true (and some may not be true), what I want is Jesus Himself. I don’t want Boyfriend Jesus, either. I want to read the Gospels and believe the things Christ said, not reinterpret them through (what I consider to be) a faulty reading of St. Paul. This is something I yearned for long before I ever heard of Orthodoxy.

  111. Steve Wright says:

    providing they actually are saved <<<<
    And that's the rub.
    Xenia, the only way that is the "rub" is when it is taught that you REALLY believed…you REALLY meant it etc. Which I know from your prior testimony is how you were preached to in your life in evangelicalism. And I know certainly goes on in pulpits out there.

    I don't preach that way. Which is why I wrote all I did above (and preached all I did Sunday) about the Holy Spirit and His role.

    A human baby becomes aware he/she is alive – physically.
    A spiritual babe in Christ may not know or be able to do much – but he/she is also aware of that life. Thank you Holy Spirit.

    Where I would part ways with some here is that my Bible says the Holy Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am a (adopted) child of God. (obviously the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is more complex than this one verse, but this is crucial to this discussion)

    Again, an inner witness of the Spirit that I am God's child by grace through faith in Jesus and His finished work at the cross and empty tomb. That He KNOWS me! (And likewise will never say as He will to some others, "I never knew you")

    I do not read that one is assured by sacramentality in any form. I understand why one would gain assurance through the sacraments, but that is different. I also understand why one would gain assurance by going down for the altar call each Sunday too…but I do not read either that one is assured by altar calls.

    I do read what I read about the Spirit (above) and that is what I preach.

  112. Steve Wright says:

    MLD @101 – Not sure what you are talking about. I didn’t reference good works earlier.

    I spoke of conducting one’s life according to the Sermon on the Mount – which is the context of the Lord’s final warning about the houses built on sand or on the rock of obedience to His teachings. DOING, not just hearing.

    And also speaks to Xenia’s concern @110 – namely the personal relationship with the resurrected, living Lord Jesus Christ. Daily, moment by moment. Trust, obey – even when it does not make sense or we think OUR situation is the loophole exception to what the Lord commands

  113. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Steve, what you said was “…that they are motivated to be doers of His commands (much to MLD’s chagrin I am sure).

  114. Steve Wright says:

    Oh..I see MLD. I was thinking about how you like to say we “preach the Christian” and not preach the Christ.

  115. JoelG says:

    Steve @112 – “I spoke of conducting one’s life according to the Sermon on the Mount

    “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”

    If Jesus’ command is to BE perfect. Then how do we have any hope?

  116. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Steve, who is the publisher of your Bible – I think they left some pages out.
    Did you tear out the pages that spoke of eating his body and blood that in the end was for the forgiveness of sin.

    I myself find that pretty assuring … but perhaps I have a very low threshold of what assures me.

  117. Xenia says:

    Jesus didn’t say “Be perfect or you will go to hell.”

  118. Steve Wright says:

    JoelG @115 – The number one problem with commenting on the Bible, especially the Sermon on the Mount, is to grab one verse and try to explain it in isolation.

    I took 9 weeks to teach the entire Sermon on the Mount. I found that a good pace as it avoided teaching it as if it was a collection of 1-2 verse proverbs and instead looked at the context as a whole….but still slow enough to dig pretty deep into each section.

    You can listen to them all, including your verse of question… here

    (Yesterday’s will post later in the week to finish it up)

  119. Donna says:

    I haven’t read all preceding comments; I’m just checking in to say thank you to Jean for a refreshing article. That’s a compelling graphic, too. 🙂

  120. Jean says:

    You’re very welcome. I give Michael credit for the graphic.

  121. JoelG says:

    Thank you Steve. I’ll check it out tonight.

    “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

    “Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.””

  122. Steve Wright says:

    JoelG – One important point about the Sermon on the Mount (that I repeated throughout the study).

    We are nowhere near, at this point in the ministry, Jesus proclaiming the gospel as defined as declaring His coming death and resurrection. They are not ready for this yet.

    Rather, at this stage He is breaking up the stony doctrinal ground that has developed over centuries of erroneous scribal teaching and practice concerning the proper and improper use of the Law.

    However, He is still giving valuable instruction for the then and now. He is not simply saying all this stuff so they can throw up their hands in despair and wait a couple years until the crucifixion and resurrection. Nor is He saying all this stuff for those of us with the hindsight of the cross to simply in effect ignore and praise God for His grace.

  123. JoelG says:

    Agreed that they are valuable instruction for us and we ought to , or better yet, are free to do our best to obey them since we are “in Him”. At the same time, these teachings show me the depth of my sin and my need for a Savior because I don’t obey them perfectly.

  124. Em again says:

    sometimes reading all the comments here almost brings tears to my eyes – this is one of those threads… every single post has behind it a love for Christ…

    one comment that made me smile was dancing with God… not a bad idea, but better still is to develop the mind of Christ… our brains are interesting organs and their very best use is to process Christ into our very beings and this thread does that kind of a work, i believe… it was Witness Lee who referred to our lives as cups of hot water into which a tea bag of Christ is inserted and eventually infuses that cup into tea – i prefer developing the mind of Christ – i had mixed feelings about the Chinaman, but i do believe he was sent over here by God to address just what so many here have seen happen to the churches – not just the Evangelicals – the commercialization that sent MLD to the Lutherans, Xenia to the Orthodox and it sent my family to an independent, disciplined teacher out of DTS – show us Christ

  125. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “the commercialization that sent MLD to the Lutherans”
    Nothing sent me to the Lutherans other than a change of theology.

  126. Xenia says:

    It was my despair over my own sinfulness that sent me to the Orthodox.

  127. JoelG says:

    Steve you’re a good preacher. Good stuff. Thank you.

    Xenia you mentioned above that your Liturgy focuses on devotion to God. This is what caused me to despair and retreat from the evangelical church. I’m a baby Lutheran, still learning Lutheran theology. One of the things that I love about Sunday’s now is a prayer we say acknowkedge that we have not loved God with our whole heart or loved our neighbor as ourselves. Jeans article is a great comfort to me as it stresses that we are justified because of Jesus’ work on our behalf. He is our substitute. This is all we have to hold to. Like Cash said above, we are 100% sinner and %100 Saint, thanks be to God.

  128. Babylon's Dread says:


    I understand your point on that about Jesus the principle and I think there is plenty of that out there. But those of us who came to him in the Jesus movement days were deeply moved by the personal love of a savior who was near to us. We all knew that we had not changed ourselves. We knew that he had done it all. We sang simple songs to him and about his love. We belonged more than we believed. The studying of the Bible drove us to know about him and to seek truth… scholasticism rose in Biblicist forms… but it was Jesus, we tasted him and loved him.

  129. Steve Wright says:

    Thanks JoelG

    I’m going to echo Dread @128 – and I certainly did not come “in the Jesus movement” but throughout the last half of 1992 and first half of 1993.

    No church. No preacher. No Christian friends or witness. No evangelistic TV or radio.

    Me and the Bible and the Holy Spirit guiding into all truth – not speaking of Himself but testifying of Jesus.

    About as personal as it gets…..

  130. Mr Jesperson says:

    I apologize for not responding back to everyone’s question. I have not even had time to read through the comments since last night. That is because on my main blog that I comment on, there has been some deeply disturbing posts to me. There is a man named Samaritan Solomon who wrote a book in India detailing his persecution by GFA. Apparently they beat the tar out of him multiple times. At least that is what he claims in his book which is now up on the latest post. There have been a number of new accounts created with Indian names who have posted up thinly veiled threats of violence against this man and a regular commenter from India. I am normally a very calm and rational person. But I am ready to spit nails over this, so I had better not comment here.

  131. SJ says:

    Jesperson, have an Patheos IT person get smoths and the others IP addresses so the authorities have something to work with if God forbid something happens to Solomon or openeyes.

  132. Xenia says:

    Dread, I agree with you about the love for Christ that the Jesus People had and still have.

  133. Xenia says:

    In fact, that’s what first attracted me to Calvary Chapel over 30 years ago. But somehow that simple affection for the Savior got buried under a lot of arrogance.

  134. Dallas says:

    Em, I have a friend that was raised up, and still participates, in a church that was formed out of that Watchman Nee, Witness Lee movement, and he likes to point out that at a certain point Witness Lee was practically being recorded 24/7, so yeah there is some crazy stuff out there (as we would all likely contribute in that situation), but that is a good one.

    My friend actually brings some pretty interesting perspective because though he was raised in that tradition, his father didn’t go in for a lot of the fast and loose interpretations of scripture that you might come across. He tends to be pretty willing to take any number of things in, but spit them out of they don’t taste right. Good friend to have.

  135. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    My next door neighbors are visible and influential leaders in the Local Church. They have college age group meetings every Thursday night – sit on the back deck and play old Witness / Watchman audio stuff along with some other folks of theirs.

  136. Dallas says:

    MLD, it’s interesting, I don’t have a ton of background, but I have been given to understand that there is a significant difference between the movement on the west coast and in the Midwest and East. It’s funny that you mention influence and leadership because one of the things that I have enjoyed about their gatherings is that, though they do have obvious leadership, it is much less formal than I have found in other places I have been. The gatherings that I have attended have generally tended to keep the message short and focus back out to the congregation for reflection, which is a pretty cool feel.

  137. Babylon's Dread says:

    The question of actually apostasy is inaccessible. We all know the arguments by now. We know the methodologies and their outcomes. We know for example that every actual case of a person turning from faith will be responded to with a challenge to the actual faith of that person. I was musing upon Bart Erhman the agnostic who leans atheist who was once a self-proclaimed born again Jesus advocate.

    The conclusions are in the presuppositions. That is the function of theological systematics. We must have categories that become sovereign hermeneutical buttresses. Once settled in our mind they are unassailable.

    So it has been long since I entered this discussion with any vigor and I only meander into this now because it is staring at me in my studies again.

    Ordo Salutis Dread

  138. Jean says:

    Here is a sermon outline for the Christian Life:

    “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, [1] hearing the word, [2] hold it fast in an [3] honest and good heart, and [4] bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15)

    1, 2, 3, 4 … Amen!

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