Who Owes Me Three Dollars?

February 27, 2007

Ash Wednesday + 5

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 9:34 pm

Much less can human works which are done over and over again, with the aid of natural precepts, so to speak, lead to that end. [i.e. righteousness]

This is a polemic against the very common notion that "he was a good person. He does such good things for his fellow man. He is certainly approved by God."

Since the law of God, which is holy and unstained, true and just, is given to man by God as an aid beyond his natural powers to enlighten him and move him to do the good, and nevertheless the opposite takes place, namely, that he becomes more wicked, how can he left to his own power and without such aid be induced to do good?

Romans 3:10-18 None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."  "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips."  "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness."  "Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

Paul pieces together this nice little string of pearls from Ps 14:1-3, Ps 51:1-3, and Eccl 7:20

The law is holy just and good. But it is not able to produce or induce what it demands.

Consider this quote: "I am obliged to forgive them their sins if I want the law fulfilled by them. I must also put away the law for I see that they are unable not to sin, especially when they are fighting, that is, when they are laboring to fulfill the law in their own."

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19 Comments »

  1. When Paul says “None is righteous; no, not one”, he doesn’t really mean it. A guy once told me:

    “Paul is quoting Psalm 14 in Rom 3:10. And as Psalm 14 says, there ARE righteous people [v5 “God is with the generation of the righteous“]. Do you think Paul was so dumb he didn’t know that? Like every Jewish boy, he probably had the entire book of Psalms memorized. So, if he is using that verse to assert a generalized statement about the whole of mankind, he is taking it out of context and contradicting the scriptures and the Psalm itself. I don’t believe he would do that, so he must not mean what you think he means. No, he is quoting Psalm 14 because it speaks about unrighteous JEWS which supports his argument that being Jewish alone does not make one righteous.”

    So apparently, Paul is less concerned about justification than we always thought, and really more concerned with Gentile inclusion…

    Comment by Frank Valenti — February 28, 2007 @ 7:30 am

  2. I hope Frank is quoting this guy, whoever he is, sarcastically.

    Otherwise…dang…

    Comment by Echo_ohcE — February 28, 2007 @ 6:00 pm

  3. test

    Comment by Ron — March 1, 2007 @ 11:42 am

  4. No, Frank is quoting this guy straw-mannishly

    Anyway, if “there is none righteous, no not one” is a universal statement about all mankind, who are “the righteous” in Psalm 5, 14, and 140 (all quoted in Rom 3:13)? Can we at least admit that those Psalms Paul quotes are originally referring to two distinct sets of people?

    Comment by Ron — March 1, 2007 @ 11:45 am

  5. So let’s just lay our cards on the table here. I’m Frank, Ron is “a guy”, and I’m not sure how the quote is “straw-mannish”, especially as you reinforce that you deny (or at least question) that

    “there is none righteous, no not one” is a universal statement about all mankind

    Here we go again…

    I don’t think I’ll play this time.

    Comment by RubeRad — March 1, 2007 @ 3:37 pm

  6. The straw man is in your conclusion about what I said.

    So apparently, Paul is less concerned about justification than we always thought, and really more concerned with Gentile inclusion…

    I didn’t say that. You are misrepresenting me and FV when you make that statement. But those straw men sure do burn easily, don’t they?

    Comment by Ron — March 1, 2007 @ 4:58 pm

  7. By the way, Bruce, I agreed with everything on this post until you said

    “I must also put away the law…”

    Where does God say this? The Law is not nullified by faith, but rather established (Rom 3:31). The only thing “put away” (to use your terminology) is lawlessness (Heb 9:26), though we have yet to see this completed.

    I suppose it could be said that the ordinances of the Law (circumcision, sacrifice, dietary laws, Passover) were “put away” in that God’s people are no longer obligated to do them (Eph 2:14-16), but those ordinances were taken up in Christ, and we ourselves partake of their true meaning via our union with Christ. So, I personally wouldn’t say they were “put away”, but I would understand if someone wanted to use that language in reference to them.

    Comment by Ron — March 1, 2007 @ 5:27 pm

  8. I didn’t say that. You are misrepresenting me and FV when you make that statement.

    I’m not interested in tracking down and quoting other parts of the same discussion, so I’ll go ahead and ask you to please ignore my concluding sentence, which was indeed unnecessarily sarcastic. The actual quote by itself stands alone in the context of this post.

    Comment by RubeRad — March 1, 2007 @ 6:20 pm

  9. Strange how no one wants to even try to answer simple questions like, “Can we at least admit that those Psalms Paul quotes are originally referring to two distinct sets of people?”

    Comment by Ron — March 2, 2007 @ 9:23 am

  10. I’d say not two different sets of people, but rather two different states of people. All men are born fallen; there is none righteous, no not one. That statement is as universal as it appears to be.

    As for those that God terms righteous, righteousness comes by faith. And even then, it is not I who lives, but Christ lives in me. Righteousness comes by imputation.

    Comment by RubeRad — March 2, 2007 @ 12:38 pm

  11. Aren’t there two sets of people who are in either one of those states or the other?

    Comment by Ron — March 2, 2007 @ 3:52 pm

  12. yeah, the righteous is one set of people, and the unrighteous is another set of people.

    Christ is in the first group, and everyone else is in the second group.

    Oh, but then of course, all the elect are united to him by faith, have HIS righteousness imputed to them BY this faith, and then are, of course, declared to be righteous, as Paul says, in the gospel, the righteousness from God is revealed to be by faith. It is not the righteousness that comes from me, but it comes from God TO me.

    Ron, the way you will pose a devastating objection to this understanding is to say that Christ’s righteousness is not applied/imputed to us by faith alone through federal headship. Then of course my entire argument here will fall apart.

    You could also argue that the righteousness of God that comes by faith was not imputed to those that lived before Christ, under the OT.

    Or maybe you have some other option, I don’t know. I’m just trying to help you defeat my argument.

    Comment by Echo_ohcE — March 3, 2007 @ 9:31 pm

  13. I do not need to defeat your argument, Mr. Echo. You refute yourself via internal contradiction.

    “Christ is in the first group, and everyone else is in the second group.”

    =/=

    “but then of course, all the elect are united to him by faith, have HIS righteousness imputed to them BY this faith, and then are, of course, declared to be righteous”

    See the contradiction?

    But anyway, my point was that Paul did not intend “there is none righteous, no not one” to be a universal statement about all mankind since:

    1) There are righteous people in Christ
    2) Those people are mentioned in the Psalms he alludes to in Romans 3.

    In Romans 3, Paul directs the “none righteous” statement toward “those under the law” i.e. the Jews (vs 19). This is because he is preaching Sola Fide – Justification by faith alone, apart from becoming Jewish by taking on the Jewish legal sacraments.

    And this is what he means when he says, “works of the law” or “ordinances” or “observing the law”. You never see Paul saying something like, “You are justified by faith alone, so stop trying not to lie, steal, kill, commit sexual immorality, idolatry, etc.” No, he says, “Don’t worry about circumcisions, the keeping of holy days, or kosher eating.” It is a huge leap to say that Paul meant that those justified by faith in Christ are no longer under obligation to keep the moral Law (or that the Law is an “impossible obligation”). He never says that. He says the opposite, actually. He says you’ll be cut off if you keep sinning.

    Comment by Ron — March 5, 2007 @ 9:30 am

  14. No, I don’t see the contradiction, but I do see you giving voice to the council of Trent.

    Goodbye, wolf. Tell the Pope I said hi.

    Comment by Echo_ohcE — March 5, 2007 @ 3:05 pm

  15. Alright, I’ll humor you a little.

    None are righteous because we’ve all failed in the covenant of works, which is why we need Christ in the first place. But in the covenant of grace, we are declared – declared – righteous in justification. It is a forensic/legal declaration ONLY in justification. God CONSIDERS us righteous, but we don’t yet become righteous.

    In sanctification, we begin to become righteous, but we don’t become FULLY righteous until we are glorified.

    So we are considered righteous by the imputation of the active obedience of Christ to us by faith, along with his passive obedience which takes away the curse due to us for our sin.

    So we are COUNTED righteous now, but we will be MADE righteous in glorification.

    This is just standard WCF doctrine here.

    I quote the Shorter Catechism:

    Q16: Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?
    A16: The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.

    Echo: None is righteous. No not one. And just to be really, really clear:

    Q14: What is sin?
    A14: Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.

    Echo: So none is righteous because all are sinful in Adam, because when Adam sinned, all sinned and became guilty. None is righteous. But then about justification and the righteousness from God which is by faith, it says:

    Q33: What is justification?
    A33: Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

    Echo: God accepts us AS righteous in his sight by free grace through the imputation of the righteousness of someone ELSE, namely Christ, which is imputed to us, received by us by faith alone.

    Your statements are clearly, clearly irreconcilable to these statements. You clearly do not affirm the imputation of Christ’s righteousness by faith alone. Rather you sound more like a semi-pelagian, medieval old law/new law theologian who fails to properly distinguish between justification and sanctification, who fails to affirm the imputation of Christ’s active obedience by faith alone. This is not something I’m just making up, but something that emanates from almost every word you say.

    This is the reason why you see a contradiction in my statements, because you do not affirm justification as being the legal declaration of God that we have been counted righteous in Christ through the imputation of his righteousness by faith alone.

    So like I said, say hi to the Pope for me, who in the Council of Trent affirms that anyone who says that we cannot obey the law, or that justification is by faith alone is anathema.

    E

    Comment by Echo_ohcE — March 5, 2007 @ 3:16 pm

  16. What precisely did I say that you find Romish, Mr. Echo?

    Comment by Ron — March 5, 2007 @ 3:16 pm

  17. Your statements are clearly, clearly irreconcilable to these statements.

    This is an assertion you have yet to prove. You haven’t interacted with anything I actually said.

    You clearly do not affirm the imputation of Christ’s righteousness by faith alone.

    Where did I say this? One thing I do deny and with all my heart is your imputation to me of words I never said.

    So we are considered righteous by the imputation of the active obedience of Christ to us by faith

    I admittedly have trouble with this part. But so did many reformers. The WCF never uses the phrase “active obedience” for this very reason. Not every one of the Westminster divines held ICAO. And Calvin defined justification as “one word – the remission of sins”, which only speaks to the imputation of Christ’s passive obedience. So, like John Owen said in his work on the Doctrine of Justification, “As far as it is possible for me, I shall avoid the concerning of myself at present in these differences [the imputation of Christ’s active/passive obedience]; for unto what purpose is it to contend about them, whilst the substance of the doctrine itself is openly opposed and rejected [by papists and socinians]? Both views are well within the realm of the confession and the historic reformed faith.

    Trent: “anyone who says that we cannot obey the law, … is anathema.”

    I guess Moses was a papist then.
    Deuteronomy 30:11-14 “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.”

    And Paul too:
    1 Corinthians 10:13″No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

    And the WCF 19.7 “Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it: the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.”

    I happily admit to being a papist if I have the preceding three witnesses accompanying me.

    Comment by Ron — March 5, 2007 @ 6:13 pm

  18. As I said, it is clear as crystal.

    You see, you present me with a bit of a dilemma. You clearly side with the Federal Vision folks, and clearly ascribe to their ideas, which have been condemned by the OPC, insofar as they could condemn them, because no one was brought up on trial. You can’t really condemn people in another denomination. But the church has declared their ideas out of accord with the Scriptures and the confession. Perhaps one day the PCA will do the same thing. But these are old heresies, condemned long ago, and are at the heart of the reformation. It was our separation from this sort of thing that led to the reformation in the first place. I regret Owen’s comments. But regardless, it is your rejection of the imputation of the active obedience (I used that language on purpose because I knew you’d disagree with it) that puts you on the wrong side of this thing.

    So here’s my dilemma. I have two choices. I can either debate this with you, and prove to you that the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is at the heart of the reformed doctrine of justification, because it’s at the heart of the Bible, OR I can say, well, forget it.

    So which do I choose?

    If I choose to simply forget it, I will lose nothing. You, on the other hand, will learn nothing. Maybe I can live with that though, because you have clearly decided to learn from people like Wilkins and Shepherd. You have made your choice.

    If I debate you on it, I will spend a great deal of time trying to “straighten you out” and expend a great deal of energy trying to help you understand the truth of the doctrine about the active obedience of Christ. This will largely be a frustrating exercise, and as long as you continue to fill your head with what you have chosen to fill it with, I doubt I will have a louder voice. No, such a debate will be fruitless.

    For your sake, I will tell you this much. The gospel you believe in is not the full gospel. You will suffer needlessly for it. Embracing the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s active obedience to us in justification has many, many benefits, which you would do well to embrace. There is much comfort and assurance in it. I’m sorry that you feel the need to find reasons not to believe in it, and I regret that you have been suckered by this lie, because it will rob you of your joy in the Christian life, and may prove to cost you a great deal. Greener pastures lie in wait on the other side of that fence.

    But I won’t debate you on it. You won’t be convinced in a blog, nor are you interested in being convinced either. You are likely too fascinated with having a greater understanding of the Scriptures to give that up. You would be reluctant to admit that your newfound heroes are wrong, and that the “great” insight they have given you is wrong. No, a debate would be fruitless. You are more interested in impressing people with your understanding.

    I am largely sympathetic to this. I do the same thing. It’s your pastor’s and elders’ job to help you think through this, if in fact you are interested in really thinking through this.

    Sigh, in some ways, I feel sorry for you, because I know what you are missing out on, what you are robbing yourself of. But you are determined to stay your course. But perhaps God will make it cost you enough to push you to give it up someday. I hope he will.

    E

    Comment by Echo_ohcE — March 5, 2007 @ 9:26 pm


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