Jean’s Gospel: The Baptized Life

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32 Responses

  1. Xenia says:

    … they imply that grace depends on us doing our part.<<<

    We are expected to do our part.

    I was taught for the first fifty years of my life (at least, the years when I was old enough to think about theology) that the gifts of the Spirit St. Paul spoke of in Galatians would proceed, without effort, from the life of a true believer with little or no effort on our part. In fact, making the effort was legalism, period, so none of that "salvation by works" stuff, sister. But it didn't work. It simply didn't work. I waited and waited and read the Bible through six or seven times and none of that fruit manifested itself in my life and to be honest and not too judgmental, it didn't seem to be working out too well for the folks around me, either.

    Synergism: Cooperating with God.

  2. Jean says:

    Hi Xenia,

    I’m glad you raised this issue in the comments, because it’s impossible to say everything in a 1,000 word article.

    I would locate our “cooperation” in living “by” or being “led by” the Spirit (as Paul speaks about in Romans 8). We obviously cooperate by hearing God’s word, receiving His gifts, praying and not resisting the Spirit, though even here it is the Spirit’s prompting: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

    But in the piece above (and your quote), I want to say that God is gracious towards us solely because of Christ’s atoning death. He will not withdraw His grace if we sin (recall David and the Prodigal). Sin is us turning our back to Him and going to the far country.

    Does this distinction resonate with what you believe?

  3. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “Synergism: Cooperating with God.”

    I know I will get the “baking cookies with Xenia” story, but … because you listened to idiots describe the sanctified life to you in no excludes the fact that Jesus, through his word, repents us, justifies us, sanctifies us and will glorify us all on his own.

    John 15 discusses this – that we produce fruit, not for anything we do but solely because we are connected to the vine. There is another story about the dying tree that is to be destroyed but the gardener wants to give it one more try – and he does all the work, tilling the soil, feeding the soil, pruning the branches etc (this is Jesus at work in case some missed it) and then the tree produced the good fruit.

    I just do not understand in the realm of becoming sanctified what “cooperating with God” is.

  4. It seems to me that so much of the NT includes instructions for cooperating with God, doesn’t it?

    I mean, I understand that without God it is impossible for me to do anything of spiritual value, but because I have been made spiritual through Christ, I can live in a new way. I have choices to make that can now please God and produce fruit.

    When the Bible instructs us to not quench the Spirit, is that not a form of cooperation on my part?

    There are certainly things that are monergistic: justification, propitiation, reconciliation, regeneration.

    But from there the onus, to a degree, is put upon the redeemed individual.

  5. Xenia says:

    MLD, since you remember the Baking Cookies with Xenia allegory so well, I will not have to repeat it. 🙂 I am working on a new allegory… Repairing Cars with Grandpa.

    Jean, I could say I more or less agree with your #2 but I am pretty sure in practice you might say I believe in salvation by works. The Orthodox say that salvation is all of God and that we must do our part. Paradoxical, but true. Without Him, we could do no good works but we are expected to do good works, nonetheless.

  6. JoelG says:

    Yesterday Jean wrote:

    “Through faith, Jesus, by means of His Word and Sacraments, frees us to begin living as truly human beings for the first time.”

    This sounds a lot like Theosis to me. And if I recall becoming more like God is part of being “saved” in Orthodox tradition. I may be totally off here.

  7. Duane Arnold says:

    #7 Xenia

    “Pray as though everything depended on God.
    Work as though everything depended on you.”
    St. Augustine

    I’ve always found that almost any tenet of orthodoxy (synergist or monergist) taken to an absolute logical extreme, ends up in heterodoxy…

  8. John 20:29 says:

    “If we trust in His gifts and promises given to us in the Gospel through preaching, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist and in our baptism, God will enable us by the Spirit to walk in the newness of life now, while awaiting the resurrection, which Christ has prepared for us to walk in, both now and forever.”
    lets see if this makes sense: if we trust … in preaching, in the Eucharist and in our baptism, God will enable us to walk now?
    all the supply of the grace of God? yes…
    not entirely confusing to me, but seems a bit skewed… so i will just sit here on my evangelical fundy rock and see how this thread progresses … praying that it does 🙂

  9. Jean says:

    Hi Joel,

    Most Protestants, including Lutherans in particular, would not agree with the Orthodox doctrine of Theosis. I’m not an expert in Orthodox theology (Xenia might share her knowledge), but beginning with a different doctrine of original sin, there are too many differences in doctrine to draw a parallel.

    I would commend the following quote from Paul to your consideration (from Romans Four):

    “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
    and whose sins are covered;
    8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

    Notice what God does for us by grace alone: forgives; covers, does not count (i.e., impute) sin. The result being: blessedness.

    Our righteousness (or justification) is complete in Christ. In me, I’m complete sinner; in Christ, I’m complete saint. I’m both simultaneously. Paul writes about that struggle in Romans Seven.

  10. Jean says:

    I think when people struggle with sin, our typical human reaction is: “try harder”. But, we might ask ourselves: Who tried harder than the pharisees? And what did Paul mean by: “the power of sin is the law.”

    The trying by our own power, or submitting to more law preaching actually enhances sin. The only way, according to Paul that we can walk in the newness of life, is by the Spirit. What does the Spirit engender and strengthen in us? Faith!!!

    How do we receive faith? Through the Gospel!!!

    “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

    Now, believing that, share the hope that is in you (and some chocolate chip cookies from Xenia’s recipe) with your neighbor.

  11. Duane Arnold says:

    #9 Jean

    I’m not being argumentative in the least, but even the historical record would suggest that some Lutheran divines (Melanchthon among them) moved to allowing the will to respond to Grace and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I know the Lutheran Confessions took an absolute view, but even in the theological wrangling leading to that formulation there was nuance. Part of this harkened back to the Sixth Ecumenical Council and the debate on Christ’s human will which, while overborne by the divine will, was still fully human, reasonable and capable of decision.

  12. Jean says:

    Duane we are in agreement: “allowing the will to respond to Grace and the promptings of the Holy Spirit.” I’m sorry if I gave the opposite impression.

  13. JoelG says:

    Thank you Jean. It is of great comfort to know that we can always return to our Baptism and to the Lords Table for rest and nourishment from our Lord Jesus…. no matter what.

  14. Xenia says:

    I certainly do agree with the admonition to remember one’s baptism!

  15. Duane Arnold says:

    #12 Jean

    I don’t want to get you in trouble here, but Melanchthon’s position was considered to contain an incipient synergistic tendency… (I do not agree) The allowance, however, of a decision of a human will – even if that decision is to cooperate with God’s grace – seems grounded in both reality and a sound Christological perspective.

  16. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, much of the Formula was written against Melanchthon.

    Also, the will cannot be appealed to to do good or do what is write. The purpose of preaching is not to appeal to the will but to convert the will.

  17. Jean says:

    Once again, I return to Paul:

    “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

  18. Duane Arnold says:

    #16 MLD

    Certainly your opinion and the opinion of the Lutheran Confessions… but not mine. I tend to go with Melanchthon, as you know.

  19. JoelG says:

    Poor Jean’s got his hands full today ?

  20. Duane Arnold says:

    #19 Joel


  21. Duane Arnold says:

    #17 Jean

    But when we place that verse in context, at least in my reading, there is nuance going on…

    “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, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

  22. Steve says:


    I don’t mean to be argumentative here but you said the first 50 years didn’t work for you in producing any fruit. Are you some how now able to judge the fruit in your own life without bias? Cooperating with God is a good thing. With that in mind let Him be the judge of the fruit and not yourself. After all its Him that causes the growth.

  23. Xenia says:

    Steve, it was an interior struggle which would not be appropriate to explain in detail on a public forum.

  24. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Steve brings up a very good point. I cannot see nor measure my own good works and neither could the sheep in Matthew 25. I worry about those who can — like the goats.
    This is the same with measuring my spiritual growth – I can’t see it. If there is any, I only know because someone else points it out.

    But I wonder – is there a difference between me doing good works vs God doing good works through me? I think there is.

  25. Xenia says:

    For a Christian there is no difference.

  26. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Did you just call me a non Christian since I said I thought there was a difference? 😉

  27. Xenia says:

    No, not at all.

    I was simply saying that I don’t think a Christian needs to compartmentalize good works, attempting to determine if a good work was done by one’s own power or by the power of God. I said “for a Christian” all good works are done by the power of God. I wasn’t saying that only a Christian could have this opinion. You should know after all these years that I know you are a Christian!

  28. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Xenia – that was a winky 🙂

  29. Xenia says:

    Do you find that the winkies here have kind of a meh facial expression?

  30. Descended says:

    One thought that comes to mind is that faith and faithfulness are two sides of the same coin. There is not one without the other. It is a gift to be used by the believer who is constrained by the Spirit of God.

  31. Jean says:


    “One thought that comes to mind is that faith and faithfulness are two sides of the same coin.”

    Excellent observation.

  32. Descended says:

    Thx, Jean.

    One of those lifesaving realizations for me.

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