Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

God Drags Down the Path of Obedience? (Does Faith Necessarily Result in Persevering Works?)

God does not drag anyone down the path of obedience, nor does faith necessarily result in works. Everywhere in the Bible, the WILL of the Christian is entreated to fall in line with God's will. If a life of dedicated obedience necessarily followed justification (as is the contention of the Reformed tradition), there would be no need to entreat the will to:

Walk by means of the Spirit
Reckon ourselves dead unto sin
Stop presenting our members as instruments of unrighteousness
Present ourselves to God
Present our members as instruments of righteusness
Present our bodies a living sacrifice
Abide in Christ
etc..... etc....

We have an old nature and a new nature. The new nature is sinless (1 John 3:9), but cannot win in a fight against the old nature (Romans 7). It takes an act of the will to submit ourselves to God and yield to the Spirit who then can empower our new nature to live through us. When we walk by the Spirit, we will not by any means fulfill the lust of the flesh (Gal 5:16). But this is a command and NOT a necessary result of justification. You see, justification solely comes from God, but sanctification is a cooperation between God and the Christian. Therefore, if the Christian is not willing (for whatever reason... he could be immature, a baby Christian, not of strong faith, under heavy stress and anxiety, caught up in the whirlpool of sin, the variables could be endless, etc) he will not grow in sanctification. EVERYWHERE in the Bible the will is entreated to cooperate with God for the growth in progressive sanctification. Therefore, if the Christian does not will and act, he won't grow in sanctification.

It is painfully obvious that if a life of perseverant faithfulness, works, and obedience necessarily came as a result of justification, then there would be no need for the literally hundreds of entreaties to our will to conform to God's will, to follow God's commands, and walk experientially as we are positionally (positional truth "in Christ"), that we find in the Bible. Why would these detailed commands and entreaties to our will be necessary if by virtue of our new birth (regeneration) we are relentlessly disposed toward keeping them?

Progressive, experiential sanctification is a cooperation between God and man. Notice Paul:

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil 4:13)

It is Paul willing and doing and Christ strengthening.

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Eph 2:10)

One point is clear here. Good works are not seen as the EVIDENCE that we are God's workmanship, but rather as the expected result of that workmanship. Whether the this result will be achieved is not stated!

Notice: "should walk". This verb is "peripatesomen": 1 person plural aorist active SUBJUNCTIVE, the mood of potential, not reality.

There are consequences for the Christian who does not persevere in faithfulness, obedience and sanctification. They do not, nevertheless, include hell. That issue was once and for all settled (forever) when they drank of the water that Jesus gives (John 4:14), at the moment of punctilliar faith in Christ for the purpose of receiving eternal life.

Obedience and faithfulness are REQUIRED of a servant (yes you heard me say that!). The neglect of such has grave and severe consequences: temporal wrath, and eternal loss.

This is where Free Grace theology has its doctrine of accountability. The Reformed tradition says that all Christians will basically persevere and be faithful if they are truly saved (this consequently makes the subsequent works and faithfulness a necessary condition for salvation, for example: "...we must also own up to the fact that our final salvation is made contingent upon the subsequent obedience which comes from faith." (John Piper "TULIP: What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism..." pg 25)).

There really is no distinctive doctrine of accountability for the regenerate ones and rewards in Reformed theology. If one does not persevere, he goes to hell, showing he was not saved. In Reformed thought, everyone who is regenerate perseveres. There really is no distinction.

If everyone gets the rewards, then of what motivation is it? Of what significance does it hold? Paul disciplined and buffeted his body. There was no assurance that he would persevere and thus win the prize and receive the crown (1 Cor 9:27). "'Everyone is special' is just another way of saying that nobody is". Jesus reserves the highly esteemed positions in His kingdom for those who have had the overcoming, faithful, obedient, lives, those who have had the intimacy with Him here and now.

"A command that everyone keeps is superfluous, and a reward that everyone receives for a virtue that everyone has is nonsense."

God does not drag anyone down the path of obedience.

(I will not quarrel that where there is justifying faith, that naturally, signs of regenerate life should exist too. This is a reasonable assumption for any Christian unless he has been converted on his death bed!

But it is quite wrong, and another thing altogether, to claim that a life of dedicated obedience is guaranteed by regeneration, or even that such works as there are must be visible to a human observer. God alone may be able to detect the signs of life from regeneration in some of His children.)


Blogger Matthew Celestine said...

What a fantastic post! I really wonder why I ever believed in Calvinistic notions of Perserverance.

God Bless


December 28, 2005 2:23 AM  
Blogger Kc said...


I hope and pray you're back is better. I also hope you didn't perceive my comment to you on my post as anything other than an explanation that I didn't mean to challenge you with my post. I have great respect for you and your understanding and I always appreciate it, especially if we differ. Please, always feel free to expound on your position at my site and know it's appreciated. ;-)

We're in complete agreement concerning will, perseverance, obedience and accountability and I think you done a wonderful job of presenting the scriptural evidence that substantiates this position. I have a few questions pertaining to sanctification and, God willing, I'll post soon on that specific subject.

Your effort here is a blessing to me and I pray God will continue to bless you and strengthen you.


December 28, 2005 2:59 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Antonio, the posting on your blog is very well done and stimulates my thinking.

I had not read your actual blog until a short time ago, having only read your comments on other blogs.

Generally I avoid theological confrontation, since most people's ideas are not changed by mine, still I do enjoy reading others' perspective on things spiritual.

You seem to be prett right on.

December 28, 2005 4:56 AM  
Blogger Evette Percy said...

Excellent thoughts. Please see my blog on free will verses predestination. Have you ever heard of compatibilism? Other wise known as Divine Sovereignty and Human responsibility? I do believe that it is bang on with what you are portraying here. One example is Genesis 50:19-20. Josephs brothers intended it for evil, where God intended it for good. God ordained that Joseph should under go his Egypt experience at the hands of his brothers so that his purposes may be fulfilled. Yet the brothers are not let of the hook. They are responsible for their actions though God's soverignty was present in their actions. Judas is an other great example (amoung many) If you follow his profile in John, John points out that Satn was acting in Judas, yet Jesus Chose judas specifically as one of his 12, and Jesus does noting except out of obedience to the father. Yet through all of God's involvment...Judas is not let off the hook. He is responsible for his actions. Thus him hanging himself...also through out John Judas is refered to as "the one who betrayed Jesus" putting ownership of his actions on himself. Some much more....


December 28, 2005 10:23 AM  
Blogger Bhedr said...

I wouldn't say that he drags obedience but that he cultivates it. Some 30 some 60 some 100 fold but if a professer is coasting through life and not seeking then it is indeed a sign of unbelief.

All the Author of Hebrews called his brethren to was to continue in the faith and not draw back as God is a consuming fire, but the author also said that we are not of those who fall away but of those that persevere. We are not talking about a list of chores but a holding fast to truth and to not rebell as those in the desert rebelled.

Even Lot's soul was vexed and when crunch time came he wanted out.

In his own dysfunctional way he preached righteousness as Archeologist have listed his rebuke and suggested as one that he knew would not get taken up on his offer. You see even Sodom and Gommorrah thought it evil to take the daughters of a official man of the city.

Bottom line! He was saved by fire even though his dysfunctional works burned away, yet even he wanted out when crunch time came yet Lot's wife had her heart in the City of destruction and her soul yearned for the things of the world. She did not want Lots God as her Lord.

I would respectfully ask that you guys who say you are the only ones who believe in free grace not put words in our mouth.

What I have been trying to get to the heart of is the saying that a treacherous heart like that of Lot's wife or of Herod can have their cake and eat it too, when in fact the bible clearly illustrates that you must decide in your heart.

Salvation is always given to the repentent heart that wishes to turn from sin as it is God himself who graced him with that desire and that desire will not leave him because the Holy Spirit will not leave him.

Did some reformers take it too far? Did some Puritans? Yes, but not all of them; and the pendulum must stay balanced as no human has ever arrived in their theology but we must endeavor to find the finest grain of truth in the Word of God and present his whole counsel.

I don't believe in legalism but i do believe that the Christian life is indeed a series of steps and the more you are given the more you are accountable for. Listen Antonio I agree with you in many areas and I myself was in total agreement in all you say here until the Word of God moved me out of my comfort zone along with His Spirit.

I don't believe in Legalism. but it is good to ask oneself. Am I in the same place spiritually that I was 10 years ago? If I am then there is something definetly wrong with my faith as it may not be faith. Even the Apostle Paul calls us to examine ourselves. 2 Corinthians 13:5.

December 28, 2005 6:51 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Understanding the flesh as totally useless because of its sinfulness and the work of the Spirit as are only hope of true sancification has been called dualism. And actually to me that term sounds somewhat accurate. I don't have a problem with seeing a dualism in the fallen world, as long as He who is in us is stronger...& our faith has overcome the world, etc!

God bless brother!

December 28, 2005 8:49 PM  
Blogger torn_aclu said...

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

Funny how you left out the passages that are stumbling blocks to your ideas in this particular blog. Coincidence?

I agree that God does ask for man's will in sanctification, but at times he brings him kicking and screaming along.

December 28, 2005 11:53 PM  
Blogger Matthew Celestine said...

If the man is kicking and screaming, it shows he is resisting. I think that's where chastisement comes in.

December 29, 2005 12:31 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Matthew, thank you for your comment.

Casey, thank you for your prayers. They are greatly appreciated. I agree tremendously with you, and on your last posts. Thank you for your friendship.


December 29, 2005 1:12 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...


thanks for your comments. As long as I can stimulate thinking rather than shut people down to consideration of my position, I am doing O.K. I am glad that I got your noggin kickin in gear.


December 29, 2005 1:13 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Evi, thank you so much for visiting my blog.

"Compatibilism" could be germain to this subject I have discussed. I just don't subscribe to the premise of Calvinism's own brand of the "sovereignty" of God.

I believe that God is absolutely Sovereign. I believe that God in His infinite power and knowledge fits into His plan even the most rebellious thoughts and deeds of mankind. He is able to frustrate, prevent or use man's plans in order to fulfill His own, and He does so without destroying man's ability to exercise free choice.

But to say that in order for God to be "sovereign" He must have exhaustively decreed everything that comes to pass in an all-inclusive Decree and then say that man is responsible for his actions is not "compatible". It is better termed "contradictory".

I do not wish to travel down this rabbit trail for the time being, though. This post directly is focusing on Reformed theology's insistence that progressive, experiential sanctification necessarily results from regeneration.


December 29, 2005 1:24 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...


Thanks again for coming and reading my humble post.

What you are teaching is the same rehash of the current tradition in Reformed theology.

Maybe it would be helpful if we discusssed certain scriptures. Why don't you choose one or two which you think best supports your multiple-paragraphs in this comment section and we can hash them out? I would be interested in seeing how you come to these conclusions.

Also, something to think about. Was there not some million people rescued out of Egypt, but only 2 of the adults made it into the promised land? All the rest died in the desert. Are you saying that they are all pictures of un-regenerate people? Were these not the people who applied the blood to the doorposts during the first "passover"? This is such a great example of MY teaching: that truly born-again people can fail to be progressively sanctified, and like Matthew stated, will be held accountable for their actions. In this case, they died in the wilderness.


December 29, 2005 1:31 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Torn ACLU, thank you again for your visit and comments. You bring up all the right scriptures that I expect people to.

Does God only do half works through us? Why are godly "Christians" still ravaged by sin? What is the objective amount of "work" done in the "Christian" that will set him apart from one who is not a true Christian? Does God have different degrees of "perfect" in each Christian? God saves us completely, but only sanctifies us in degrees? Not each the same? It is therefore God's imperfect work of sanctification in each of us? How come He doesn't completely sanctify us here and now?

Phil 2:12-15
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now 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 do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault
Here we see the cooperation between God and man in sanctification. Paul tells the Philippians to "work" because God is working in them. This isn't the one-sided affair you suppose it is.

The will of the Philippians is entreated to "work" while God gives the strength. God is working as we work.

Then the will of the Philippians KEEPS on being entreated to fall in line with God's will. They are not to complain nor dispute, in order that they may become blameless and without fault. Here in no uncertain terms, in the sense Paul is using, the Philippian Christians can only become blameless and faultless by the actions of their own volition, that Paul takes for granted that they must fulfill; that their are responsible for.

In your consideration of this verse, what can you say about the truly regenerate Christian who sins? Is this too God working in them to "both to will and to do for His good pleasure."? According to Calvinism and John Calvin it would!


December 29, 2005 1:44 PM  
Blogger torn_aclu said...

God does command man to "work out his own salvation" (rough paraphrase), but at times God moves our will through his own will.

December 29, 2005 4:08 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Jeremy, you didn't answer my questions.

And let me finish your thought:

God moves our will through his own will [against our will].


Are we responsible when we sin? God must not be doing his job enough? Why should we be responsible for God's partial work of sanctification?

So many unanswered questions!


December 29, 2005 4:21 PM  
Blogger Bhedr said...

Hey Antonio,

Only the kids entered the promise land. Only those born in the desert and Joshua and Caleb illustrating the importance of a real faith. I believe this does give us a picture of the re birth as not even Moses who represents the Law could enter.

Yehoushua led them in and no I don't view the promise land as heaven but I do view it as the start of eternal life as to know God is eternal life. John 17

Once we understand what eternal life really is then we can have an understanding of free grace. The problem is we are promising it to people who don't have a clue to what it is. Jesus said not to cast your pearls to the swine. When you promise a free gift to a man who has no understanding of his need of it you are misleading them and His precious pearls will be trodden down and put to shame if an un crushed fool is told of it.

Until the man is lead into the desert and broken by the Law of God he cannot possibly know his need of eternal life and who it is. God himself. He is the living manna. The desert and the law expose the true intent of heart. Now some finally saw when they were bit by serpents but many complained and perished. But until they experienced Gods judgment they knew not the cure. We have many object lessons as well as the passover.

Jews today keep the passover but they are still lost brother. That was a physical application to teach us a grand spiritual truth.

Now there were indeed some saved of Israel as Moses and Aaron were; and many others, but I believe there were far greater a number that perished not desiring the manna that they thought to be common.

So too the Jews in Jesus' day complained against the living Manna and would not surrender to Jesus and believe on Him because of their own sin, lust and love of darkness.

Scripture? Lets start with Romans 10:19-21. I believe this text makes this abundantly clear. What say you?

Brother I have a deep fondness for you as I was much in your shoes at one time and am only now coming to a proper knowledge of God. Let it be said that I do not disagree with all you have to say. I just pray you will(as I was once told) dig a little deeper.

December 29, 2005 6:02 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Moorhead said...

Antonio, I have removed your comment in response to my post on Zane Hodge’s quotes. I did this for two reasons: (1) Your nasty tone; and (2) it is too long. Please feel welcome to comment if you can keep it collegial and short.

December 29, 2005 6:58 PM  
Blogger torn_aclu said...

"Does God do half works?" Depends by what you mean. In Philippians Paul encourages Christians to presevere in sanctification, but also says that God changes people's wills. I don't know how it works out. God works. Man works. I don't know how it fits, but I do not want to neglect one side of he issue here.

"Why are godly Christians still ravaged by sin?" If they are ravaged, maybe they aren't Christians. But the power of the flesh is incredible. And the temptation of Satan doesn't hurt either. Ask Paul in Romans 7 (if that passage and the ego is about himself personally). GOd sanctifies, but even though he is working man is never completely holy on earth.

"What is the objective amount of "work" done in the "Christian" that will set him apart from one who is not a true Christian?" This is hard to tell and probably is not my responsibility to determine. Look at the fruit of the Spirit in a person's life. It isn't necessarily objective either. But true Christians do persevere and their works show that they truely believe. You don't need works to be saved in the sense that if you don't have them you can be saved out of necessity, but every true Christian has them because all true believers are indwely by the Holy Spirit and have died and risen with Christ. Further repentance must come only because it will come. If you say repentance does not have to come, then you are downplaying the God who changes wills in Philippians 2.

"Does God have different degrees of "perfect" in each Christian?" The passage doesn't say. God will make complete (which isn't holiness) every person, but the passage and scripture don't argue for degrees of spirituality.

"It is therefore God's imperfect work of sanctification in each of us? How come He doesn't completely sanctify us here and now?" Every Christian is already somewhat sanctified positionally but not progressively (scripture calls sanctification a past act and an ongoing one). In some ways holiness is objective because some people just seem holier than others. But God brings people to whatever place he wants them, sometimes against their wills and sometimes not. According to Ephesians 2:8, if God acts agianst a person's will and gives a person faith, I find it reasonable that he would do it again in sanctification, especially in light of the passage in Philippians I brought up earlier. But that doesn't mean man is not responsible because there are numerous passages where scripture exhorts man to walk worthy.

Sorry if I don't answer all of the questions. It is nto intentional. I am stretched thin because I am on so many sites.


December 29, 2005 10:02 PM  
Blogger Rose~ said...

I think this is really a great post! Thanks for your thoughts.

January 02, 2006 3:37 PM  
Blogger mark pierson said...

I admire your courage in standing against what you believe to be heresy, even when so many don't agree with you. I agree that sanctification is a cooperative experience. We must do our share to "be transformed by the renewing of our minds". We must do our share in growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We must do our share in reckoning ourselves dead to sin. Come to think of it, all of 2Peter 1:2-11 would seem to be our responsibility. As I view 2 Tim. 3:16-17 ( God's word as His tool for reproof, correction,insruction in righteousness)I believe that only the regenerate christian, as he is lead by the indwelling Holy Spirit, would ever desire to be reproved thereby, or instructed thereby,or corrected thereby. The unregenerate would just sneer at such things. When regeneration occures a person is a brand new creation(2Cor 5:17). As such,I now WANT to be exposed to the instruction and reproof of God's word as opposed to the unregenerate's response of rejection and outright disobedience. As a result of regeneration I now WANT Christ to put His Yoke upon me. I now WANT to learn of Him. As a result of regeneration I now WANT to confess and repent of my sins. These things are in opposition to the responses of the unregenerate. I take credit for all the bad in my life, while God gets credit for all the good,even the good desires for Him that reside in my heart. When I stumble into sin,He is faithful to chasten me. Chastening is another assurance of salvation ( Heb.12:5-11).

Mark Pierson

January 03, 2006 4:25 AM  
Blogger Larry said...

"God Drags Down the Path of Obedience? (Does Faith Necessarily Result in Persevering Works?)" Dec 27 2005 08:09 PM.

Hello Antonio --

I think of a discussion I had with someone on the place of Romans 6, in which he challenged me on the assumption that the only thing God does for the sinner unilaterally is justification.

I don't think that assumption is tenable. We should also proclaim, not inevitable works, but the granting to us by God of "everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 P 1:3)."

In Ephesians language, God prepares good works beforehand, for us to walk in, Eph 2:10.

In fact, the "inevitable works" formulations, as sophisticated as they might be put, such as in the language of one of the bloggers about lightning and thunder, are attempts to address the question of what God does, if anything, for the Christian besides justification. It is the wrong answer, but it is a proper question.

If we could have emphasized what God does in Eph 2:10 regarding works as much as we emphasize what He does in Eph 2:8 regarding salvation, we might have precluded fewer errors among sincere Christians regarding inevitable works.

As it is, we need to note that God preparing good works beforehand for us to walk in, is hardly ever mentioned. Neither are things in Romans 6 that God Himself does, that are not justification.

The NIV botched it pretty bad in Romans 6. What Paul addresses to the will in 6:2, "how shall we who died to sin still live in it?" becomes a denial of its possibility! OOPS!

So one of the greatest incentives to a holy life, became at the hands of the NIV a speculation about impossibilities.

Paul is addressing the Christian with a fact that, although it occurs at the same time as justification, is not the same thing as justification: we died to sin.

Then the NIV, not liking the use of "shall," thinking it might sound archaic, perhaps -- changes the sense completely, to a discussion of the supposed inability of the Christian to live in sin.

As you say in this blog, "it takes an act of the will ...." It is our will that Paul is addressing in Romans 6:2, and he is giving us a great fact to base our choice upon -- our death to sin.

December 27, 2006 5:12 AM  

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