W W W W World Wide Web Witness Inc. Home Page Contents Page for Volume What is New
BURIED IN THE GROUND OF FAITH
Tender Times for Timely Truths, Ch. 3, we
pondered "Abundant Life is Born Crucified and Secure past All
Season" as our topic. Today we dig further into this topic, and find
what is buried there; yes and find that the excavation yields not dead past
signals, but living placards and lively performance criteria. It requires,
sanctification, secure abiding, for in this, unlike justification, which is a
past thing for the Christian as in Romans 5:1, Titus 3, Romans 8:29ff. with
3:23ff. (cf. SMR Ch. 7, Section 3, pp. 520-532),
it is something to which one should not merely attend. It is a profound expression
of the Lord in His majesty, dealing sovereignly, tutorially, mouldingly,
vigorously and constantly with His brothers, to whom the faith is committed and
who are, within it, committed to Him.
CERTAINTY, COLLATERALS AND THE WAY TO CONFUSION
First, let us remove that
horrendous stumble (like a race-horse run in which stumblings can spell
dangerous breakages) that relates Romans 6 to the sacrament of baptism, and
seeks to instal into that ceremony, the language of sanctification as uniformly
found in Paul, misapplying the lesson, the life and the language alike. Here
Paul is dealing with the appalling horror of having sin regarded as something
like lollies for kids, concessions (if freely indulged in) that are covered by
the dentist. NOT AT ALL! says he. You do NOT sin that grace may abound: let no
such thing be said. He has just expounded in depth and detail that effects of
the bearing of sin for believers by Christ, so that those who
AND OF THE GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS"
should, being different, live differently.
In what way differently ? In such a way that they "reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ" (Romans ). What is the status of such ? just for clarity, let us ask. They are those who having been made sinners by one, Adam (Romans -14), whose race followed him to the preliminaries to the pit, are now made righteous (Romans ). This is just as certain a thing as being made sinners: it is an entire making over, a transformation, a change of state, like water into steam. As there, too, it takes a lot of energy to do it, for it is accompanying regeneration (John 3), so that without it you CAN NEITHER see nor enter the kingdom of heaven, as Christ there specifically told Nicodemus.
Has this come already then to those who are to reign in life ? Of course: does not Romans 5:17 tell us so! As JUDGMENT came to all through ONE (Adam) in his sin. SO through the righteousness of ONE (Christ) the free gift (of , here reinvoked) came to all, resulting in JUSTIFICATION OF LIFE. But to whom does it come ? It is, literally, TOWARDS all, but who receives this free gift ? MANY (Romans 5:19 as in Matthew 26:28, where many have their sins remitted through the New Covenant, via His blood which is "shed for many").
How then is any one person one of the "many" ?
It is by receiving the free gift (Romans which specifically denotes it). It has abounded to many (). It has come in the wake of many offences and has led to justification as a present reality (). Are then people actually justified ? Of course, how would a free gift in the past tense lead to justification otherwise ? But does the text state this in terms of mode ? Yes, in we learn that THOSE WHO RECEIVE abundance of grace will reign... not may reign. It is done. Further in 5:1, we find that it is a Christian categorical affirmation that you are in this state: "having been justified by faith." It is made the basis of the whole succeeding discourse in Romans 5. "THEREFORE HAVING BEEN JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, WE HAVE PEACE WITH GOD." Further, the gift of righteousness which is free, and may be received, is that THROUGH WHICH grace reigns to eternal life ().
To what does 5:1 form the "therefore" ? This: said of Christ, raised from
the dead (): "who was delivered up for our offences, and was
raised for our justification." It is for THIS REASON that the THEREFORE
ensues in the next verse. Thus if this is true of Christ, and it is, and the
topic is Christians (Romans 1:7), then what follows; and what is it that the
apostle determines in such a
This: "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." It is a necessary consequence when faith and Christ delivered up for our offences are taken in unison. Nothing can sever it. Indeed, in Romans 8:31ff., this is precisely what Paul again states, in just those terms:
What precedes THAT ? This: "Who shall bring a charge against God's elect ? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns ? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us" (-34). Speaking to the Christians, Paul has just stated also, this: "He who did not spares His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things ? "
Eternal life is central. It is given, assuredly given (cf. Romans ), and the grace of the giving is part of the gift (Romans ). Works of any kind are here extinguished, obliterated, a fearful presumption, a dismal contrivance, except for one. HIS works! HE obtained eternal redemption, given freely (Hebrews , Romans ). The elect receive it; those receiving it are the elect, the justified are the glorified (Romans ). The people involved are the Christians, and they are those who become the "us" of Romans 8:37. Predestination is not some new thing to allay His grace, or invade His gospel, but the backdrop of His own actions, and the certainties lie in the One who knows what He is doing and has always known. He foreknew them, justified them will glorify them (Romans ,17).
It is indeed in this context that the challenge is made: WHO WILL BRING A CHARGE AGAINST His elect ? The people who are Christians are entirely and embracively the context. Indeed, they have just been further specified as those in the cycle: foreknew, predestined, called, glorified. By divine power, those in this category are unbreachable. If you are part of it, you are in all of it. WHOEVER is justified is one who has been predestined, called, foreknown. If you are justified, the rest follows. If you have faith in this Christ, you are justified as noted earlier. Thus in verse 32 has "us" and verse 33 has "God's elect", so that the one is the other: Christians. The believers ARE the elect, chosen or they would not have believed (John ). All who are of God believe (John ), and those who are do not. It is so simple.
Thus the entire embassage of action is exposed. Faith in Him in this way ? Justified. Justified ? Elect. A Christian ? Justified, and elect. Of such : no way is there in this world or the next by which for the love of God can be lost. Of these, and now we come to our present topic: they REIGN IN LIFE. Their "old man" or old nature was crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6). That is the way it is with them, as Christians. That is why they shall assuredly live with Him (Romans 6:8, ). That is just the way it is. FAITH ? It is the assured conviction of things invisible (Hebrews 11:1). By it, freely given (Ephesians 2:5-8), you receive all (Romans ); and without it, you receive NOTHING (as applied in James 1:6! and ).
Of these again, HOW shall
we continue in sin, since we HAVE DIED TO IT (Romans 6:2). Thus in the end you
either believe or not, and if you believe in Him in this way, then one of the
practical and dynamic consequences is simply this. You have died to sin. It
would be an outrage not merely of words, which it breaches, but of dynamic. If
it is TRUE that you are His, then you have of course DIED to sin. It was
something for which He came, and bearing which (Isaiah 53:6ff.), He went to
death. It was something from which, an expiatory penalty for His people and an
offering available for all, He rose, hence devoting it to nullity as a judicial
foe or dynamic Lord.
IMAGES, IMAGINATION AND REALITY
In fact, He continues in Romans 6, there are further ways of seeing this fact. Thus if you were baptised into Christ (I Cor. , a spiritual phenomenon and one co-extensive with faith), you were baptised into His death.
In I Cor. 10, we find that the ancient Israelites were "baptised into Moses" meaning that they were covenantally called and brought into that relationship to the Old Covenant, which surrounded them and was operative. Into Christ now, people are baptised into the New Covenant, and it is HE who now directly and personally, ex-priests, ex-sacrifice, and ex-tabernacle, who is the Lord, leader and potentate, decisive, incisive, without other mediation. It is ONLY His name. It is ONLY HIS death which is signified, His life which is given, His burial in view, His crucifixion, His arising. It is all in and of Him, who IS the New Covenant (Isaiah 42:6).
This covenant, as Christ declared Himself, is into the remission of sins and in His blood: that IS the New Covenant. That IS the remission setting. It is for many; and it is symbolised in the Lord's Supper, where personally and individually you receive in appearance what you have (if not fraudulent or a fiasco, confused or astray) received by faith in fact.
Thus by this means, when the symbol is perceived, the reality is so. Again, when the Spirit of God embraces you in the New Covenant, you are His, baptised in the Spirit, a thing indispensable and operative from the first for any Christian, for by ONE SPIRIT we are ALL baptised into one body, His body (I Cor. 12:13). There is no one left out. There is no time for "something later". If you are a Christian, this then is true of you. And when you are so baptised, it is into His death; and when you have a baptismal ceremony, it is merely a representation of the same thing.
It is to death, by death, for life, that the thing happens. Thus you are
"CRUCIFIED with Christ" (Galatians ),you are one
"BEARING ABOUT IN THE BODY THE DYING OF CHRIST" (II Cor. ), you
"DIED WITH CHRIST
FROM THE RUDIMENTARY PHILOSOPHIES OF THE WORLD"*1
"DIE DAILY," (I Cor. ), and are
"DELIVERED TO DEATH" (II Cor. ) for Jesus' sake.
You not only have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 5:24), but you ARE crucified with Christ, in such a way that the result is this: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
Is this merely personal to Paul ? Far from it.
He does this in the context that otherwise he would "set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." Thus the SUBSTITUTIONARY atonement is also the IDENTIFICATORY ALIGNMENT. Your sin is forgiven because borne; and you are a sinner, so that you as sinner are a component of that sin, and hence are and MUST BE, not as an exhortation merely, but as a status fact, crucified with Christ.
These things being so, your
"is hidden in Christ" (Col. 3:3). Indeed, exclaims and declares the apostle: "You died with
Christ, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life
appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." These are simple facts, not hopes
merely. It follows with a rigour and necessity unbreakable. It is all or
nothing. If it is all, then He died for you, you died in Him, and His life
lives in you. You will in that case quite assuredly "appear with Him
You are therefore crucified and buried and planted, as Paul states in Romans 6, with Christ. If baptised (in the Spirit, or in the case of reality and sincerity for those who can hear his words, ceremonially as a testimony to that reality), then you are sharing with Him in the ways of the covenant, baptised into Christ, into His body. You are no longer your own at all (I Cor. ), for you are "bought with a price." This of course does NOT mean that you try to perform what is a free gift. It means rather than in its reception, this is the nature of the operation. If you err, you are corrected (Hebrews 12).
Look at David! But it was NOT a way of life, to err! Nor is this near to perfection! Not at all (Philippians 2-3). Rather it is a matter of sincere dedication, constant tutelage and spiritual kinship, as a devoted child in a family (Hebrews 2 and 12). There may be species and even series of corrections, but the relationship is healthy, and the birth was there in the beginning, the Fatherhood to the end, and nothing can change EITHER OF THESE THINGS (I John 3:9, Romans 8).
Thus it is that Paul in Romans 5:1-11 declares that IF you were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, HOW MUCH MORE will you be saved by His life. That in turn is where we came in Romans 8 just a little time ago.
Our present concern however is this: IF YOU ARE CHRIST's, IF you have been begotten again by His word and by His Spirit (I Peter 1, John 3, both), then there are a number of propositions which are in KIND, true of you. Christ died, so did you; Christ was buried, so were you; Christ was in an image, planted, so are you; Christ is risen, so are you in spirit and in life, new as from the dead. These things HE did physically, and in His Spirit, He bore; these things you find spiritually, and in His Spirit, you bear fruit.
The teaching in Romans 6 is NOTHING to do with baptism as an exposition of its method, its procedures, its powers. It is speaking of truth and sincerity, its topic the fight against sin, the grounds of victory, the sharing with Christ in REALITY, step by step. NOTHING could be further from the truth than to imagine we are dealing with the protocol of a ceremony. We are in fact being taught the power of the reality. IF you are in Christ, baptised into Him, then ALL these components are true of you. These are the stylisations of sanctity, the operating powers of practical living, so that you do not sin as a practice, or live your own life as a pretence. It is not ceremony but Christ, it is not procedure but power, it is not at all methodology of sacrament, but the IMPLICATIONS in power and reality of being a Christian.
You are planted, crucified, buried, risen, all of this. Moreover, you are not risen OUT of burial at all, that would be horrendous, a heresy. You REMAIN crucified, you REMAIN buried, you stay DELIVERED UP TO DEATH. These are CONDITIONS, not phases. It is all true and remains true. To seek to sever one phase by getting dripping out of it, could be virtually a mockery, if it were reflected on and realised, and such is of no good account.
What! come in weakness and wateriness out of the burial which is your constant condition, instead of arising in power and glorious companionship with Christ, transformed from weak to strong! No, Paul does not descend to this. The apostle's topic is sanctity and power, sin and sorrow, covenantal provision in Christ, and soon as we see, predestinative cover, justification and its results, purgings and purity in FACT and not at all a matter of seeking to stylise a ceremony.
The covenantal relationship to Christ then, it involves ALL these components expressed in many APT IMAGES, not one of which is relative to ceremony but to success in practical living. If you are His, then by coming to Him, whether in a sincere format of ceremony as an attestation or in a spiritual baptising into His body as in I Cor. 12:13, then you are buried and crucified and planted (unlike those not so taken - Matthew 15:13, who will be uprooted). This is the topic; these are the features of the proprieties of the topic, and these are the things, in whatever imagery, which result. They result only from faith in Him that receives Him, but they may be testified ceremonially, not to achieve what then becomes true, but as an expression of what is already true.
To all these things you are heir when you come to Him. Hence any of these images may be used, and we do not plan to be planted or buried or crucified, the one or the other literally; the topic is spiritual.
The question of the ceremony we have discussed in its own terms where it is the topic (cf. for example, Questions and Answers Ch. 11), and we have no further interest in that, for our present concern is to proceed past confusion to clarity, and in clarity to LIFE IN CHRIST.
Thus we who are Christians are saved by grace through faith, and that whole thing is not of ourselves, not of works, has nothing to do with us (Ephesians 2:1-12). BUT when we are so saved, there is sanctification (as in Philippians ) and this IS WORK INDEED! In fact, it is to be worked out (and as C.S. Lewis points out, it might be apt to conceive that what is to be worked out must first be worked in), and this, it is itself a matter of something else as its basis. What is that ?
It is that it is "God who works in you both to will and to do." No, you cannot even make your will a co-Saviour, for we are alienated from the life of God without Christ's salvation (Ephesians 4:17ff.), and without God in the world (Ephesians ). ONCE you are His, you have been justified, will be glorified, but are equally crucified with Christ, and God works in you both to will and to do, SO THAT you work out your salvation with fear and trembling, not in fear lest you DO NOT REACH THE GOAL (for Paul is explicit that this is assured in the context - Philippians 3:20-21), but in desire to avoid the occasions of grief and the situations of foolishness, lest you demean the Lord's greatness in your fault or failing, fall or declivities.
You are BURIED in the GROUND OF FAITH. What is this ?
· It is Christ crucified, yes rather risen (Romans ), so that none can lay a charge against you - not Christ, He died, and not His Father, He did not spare His only begotten Son! - Romans 8:3).
· It is Christ the foundation (I Cor. ).
· It is Christ with whom you are planted. HE is the OBJECT of faith, and in HIM is its ground! You were "dead in your trespasses and sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh" (Col. 2:13), you have been "made alive", so that He has "wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us." Now this is imagery. It may or may not at times centralise on the acts of Christ; but it is imagery when applied to ourselves, for we did none of these things.
All of them are applicable, whether in this or that way, and when the topic is burial so that the alive and alert dynamic of essentially faulty life is in view, this is apt; when it is the topic of guilt, it is expunging that is in view: burial, sprinkling... This is the area of terms, of function, and these are the phrases of representation. They relate to life and to power: to think of applying some would be ludicrous, a literalism not merely poverty stricken in understanding, but comic in kind. This is not the milieu of ceremony but spirituality in life, continuing life, constant life, victorious living, Christ-based living, brough home in multiplied imagery, some referring to events, some not, none exclusive, all relevant, none 'prescribed' but all to be understood, rather, and applied in the heart.
What IS important is to
carry out as in context, the THINGS to which the various imageries refer, and
to ensure that SIN shall NOT have dominion over you (Romans 6:9), in feel, facade,
in function or in motivation. After all, if you are buried, you are not
good for much above ground.
If you are crucified, there is little we need fear from the frolicsome follies of your flesh, and so on. To ALL these conditions, baptism is an image covenantally, in the NEW COVENANT, and is a reality SPIRITUALLY, in the same, so that when we speak of one or the other, ANY of these images become relevant according to context, for they are integral to the covenant in MEANING.
Sprinkling is no less, and the terminology is similarly used in Hebrews 9:12-14, where the sprinkling of the blood of bulls is considered as the typical preliminary, and the blood of Christ the fulfilling antitype, as He, "through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God." Thus, we are to "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies baptised with pure water."
The imagery is not the
point. It is that to which it refers. In the Hebrews case, however, it is
notable that this WAS in fact the method used, sprinkling, and it is invoked in
referred to what Christ did and the cleansing of the conscience, which is
sprinkled. This is a case where there is a KNOWN background ceremonially, and
this KNOWN background is EXPLICITLY invoked in the application to the new
situation. It is with what is known that one is wise to proceed.
SENT ON TO SANCTIFICATION FROM BASE: BUT NOT AS A BASE
Yet let us return to our topic, of sanctification. You are not only to have your hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, as stated in the word of God, and your bodies baptised with clean water (cf. John 13:10) as suitable symbolism, and the two are seen together, but you are to make sure apart form all symbolism that it is TRUE, that your hearts are sprinkled (that is covered by power and grace from God and so in line with His will through guilt expiation and the presence of the purger in your life) and your CONSCIENCES delivered from evil function and presence. This purgation is companion of your own crucifixion, so that your very members are not available for evil, but for good only (Romans 6), and so are they, says the apostle there, to be RECKONED by faith (Romans -23).
Hence you walk pierced, a peripatetic epistle of the love and holiness of God (II Corinthians 3:2-3).
Moreover you are lively in the Lord, for you if a Christian, have been "made alive together with Him" (Col. 2:13), so that not only is your life HIDDEN WITH GOD IN CHRIST, but being "raised up together" and "made to sit together in the heavenly places" in Christ Jesus, so that there will be in perpetuity, in the ages to come, this testimony of His amazing kindness.
Sanctity is a far cry from justification, as a mountain top is a far cry from its base. But it sits on its base, on Christ, on Christ who died, so that no one dare condemn us who are His, and if they do, they are mere ciphers, manipulators, or forlorn, loud-mouths who are greater than Christ in pretension or implication, but not in power or reality. As to that, NOTHING can separate us who are His, who believe in Him, from Him.
Our joining is foundation in burial, is based on Him as foundation when we are conceived as a building, is a planting when it is conceived as an action of institution with Him and by Him, is a rising, when it is conceived as a breach of earth with the powers of life, is a seating with Him in heavenly places when it is considered as a victory over sin and a placement of kind in status as His, is MANY THINGS.
These are illustrated in MANY ways; but how ludicrous if people, slavishly being joined to merely imaged realities, forget that the point is this in these contexts: that we are to DO it. Work it out, and neither fail in limiting God from His power to deliver from sin, nor in limiting God again, in His power to keep; but relying ONLY on Him, and being so founded, never confounded, but assured in all humility, that since NONE dare bring anything against those who have Christ who died for them, as their own, against those justified in Him: therefore their future is assured.
It is only when you depend partly on yourself or your church or your elders' opinion of you or some other thing, which in sanctification may be useful but in justification would be a profound presumption and indeed a denial of faith, which is not evidential in kind, but conviction in truth, and evidences itself because it is true: it is only then that you can find some way to deny the word of God in a vital regard. What is it ? That NOTHING will separate you, that NONE shall snatch you out of His hand, and that you WILL NOT PERISH (John 10:9,27-28), having come to Him as your door and gate, and that you will NEVER THIRST again. Therefore avoid such opinions in such areas of your life as your criterion. CHRIST is your criterion.
Hell is thirsty. His people are not, and that by COVENANTAL promise (John ).
IF you are not to have 'faith' properly so called, saving faith, UNTIL you are told it is vetted and acclaimed as such by some church, then if you abide in that human conception, you will not have it; and so therefore you CANNOT bear the spiritual fruits which depend on its PRESENCE for their appearance!*1A Without FAITH you CANNOT please Him (Hebrews 11:6). You MAY please someone else, but not God! You may get an A rating from man, but a ban from God. You CANNOT please Him without faith. What a contradiction, then, to defer the belief that you have faith until it evidences itself in works, or fruit, since it would prevent by necessity, your having such things, acceptable to God. It would PREVENT their formation. It is a clash, a misconception, a futility. What you SHOW is not what you KNOW, and by FAITH you are to know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3). There is no substitute.
Hence you MUST have faith and no one can intervene or defer. If however you are merely looking for products which depend on the presence of what is to await its own justification, so that you can call it your own, then with this missing in its very nature and integrity, you do not bear!
Hence is this foul error,
which would have people told NOT to be sure that they are His until someone
else watches their works, some fruit-inspector, someone who says, NOT enough is
it to believe that Jesus is the Christ*1B,
despite John's contrary affirmation in I John 5:1. However it is enough because
faith appropriates, and it is by faith that you are saved, and that not of
yourself, but by faith you are justified (Romans -5:1, Ephesians 2:1-12, I John 5:1).
But does it mean that the faith is of someone else ? Scarcely, for is it not
"Are you so foolish ? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh ? Have you suffered so many things in vain - if indeed it is in vain. Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you an works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?"
So does Galatians 3 remove the folly of considering ANY works to be ANY part of justification and of the status of being a Christian.
this is true whether YOU watch your works as a sign that you have faith, or
someone else does it for you. It is NOT OF WORKS: when will this be clear. "It is faith that
it may be according to grace," says Paul (Romans 4:16), most carefully and assiduously
removing the horrid counterfeit, and alas, whatever the intention, the arrogant
and presumptuous seeming addition, of works, call them fruit or what you will,
as some part of your foundation and ground of assurance.
These follow. Without faith, they CANNOT do so, since these are FRUITS of faith which the good tree necessarily bears (Matthew 7). If any work enters into the equation of your foundation, then has Christ died in vain, as he told the Galatians, be it circumcision or any other work, as Romans 4 so stringently affirms, along with Ephesians 2. It is of faith SO THAT it might be of grace. Enter work HERE, and EXIT grace there (cf. Romans 11:4). But it is of grace.
FEVERISH FRUITAGE AND ADEQUATE ROOTAGE
So you live without this tremulous fear of man, or yourself, or your performance. To be so sordidly or selfishly or self-centredly looking to your own works, alone or by some professional agent or agents, what is it but to look for a ground which is no ground and to confuse fruit with root, function with unction, works with grace. BY ALL MEANS be careful to be crucified with Christ, and not to allow yourself ludicrous holidays; but by the same token, realise that this is faith, and this is foundational and this is the nature of the faith.
Faith being divorced from works as the basis of your living (Romans 4:5), and Christ being the One who, being received, has taken you as His so that you cannot perish, then keep that divorced which God has divorced and married which God has married. By FAITH you receive union; by works you attest it. Do not seek to make the attestation the condition of faith, for it EXCLUDES works SO THAT it might be by grace. Let attestation be what it should be, an index of what is there. Just as soon as you look in part or in whole to the attestation for assurance, you degrade Christ. It is GOD who justifies (Romans , ), it is written and that is WHY, it is also written, NO ONE can condemn you, for ANYONE presuming to enter these premises is disputing with the divine.
To add to that is not only
to subtract from assurance, as a peril, but to attack the word of God.
You are not saved by fruit or anyone's opinion of it, by its production or its portent; but with it. Let not zeal for fruitfulness annul its reality by polluting faith with works, when works are its benediction, not its ground, not a signal for its ground, no part of its ground, but specifically excluded from the ground. You are, it is true, saved without works, but not without faith, and faith works. That is secondary chronologically; of importance, but a result, like the run on the road of a well-made car. The manufacture is the important thing.
Seek to the rock from which you are begotten then, not to your own opinion or that of others (Isaiah 51:2), to find where you stand, and on whom, and in what way. It is by FAITH.
Even to use works as a help to the troubled is dangerous. You could say, Ah yes, but see how the Lord has worked in you! to be re-assuring. But that should never be said in such a style as to be a GROUND of faith, only an expression. The faith itself has to be of its own kind, in CHRIST and in HIS WORD. If this is not present, neither is spiritual fruit, and to imagine it here or there or attempt to weigh it up can be mere and purest presumption in such a case. It is to the source that the heart must go, to the One who gave the Spirit and has the power: Having begun in Him, as Paul told the Galatians, the Christian must continue on PRECISELY the same base, and not add this or that ground for faith.
Faith is exclusive of works. To admix the two is not merely confusion, but to include what is excluded. Small wonder people can tremble in the church of such a folly, or in the way of such a work; for it is then NOT ONLY AND ALTOGETHER on Christ they rest, to Christ they look, but quite explicitly to their products, in part or whole, and that by their own estimate or that of another. The motive may be good; the result is destructive, and instructive of the subtlety of error, from the days of the Galatians to this, from the days of Pelagius to this, for in this essential sense, it is a matter, not by design but by attainment, of falling into that pit. It is a many sided pit, but this is the essential nature of it, to push people to more results, and in do doing to invent this and that to secure it, in ways contrary to scripture, to grace and to wisdom, to foundation and to faith.
It is to examine oneself to be sure one is in the faith - not to seek works as a substitute for the realities of faith which forbids such additives: it is this that is sound (II Cor. 13:5). They are to realise that Jesus Christ according to His word, is IN THEM, and not to be gulled, and so test themselves.
That, it is done by
oneself. It is a matter of faith, and finding the source and basis and cause as
Galatians 3 so firmly attests. In a field where faith is DIVORCED from works,
and salvation is APART from works (Romans 3, Ephesians 2, Galatians), it is
ironic*1A indeed that in the endeavour to
be VERY PURE, and very productive, methods can be used which are not only
counter-productive, pride inductive with great peril, or faith reductive, or
both; but scripturally confrontational and in life, and spiritually
· something great when the soul is not converted, simply because it is really true in the realm of acceptance by God (Ephesians 4:17ff., Col. 3), but no excuse for dictation and direction of what is the affair of God only, in His own gift:
· that the flesh can thus come to look for works as its aid, its balm, its help, and start, being so reassured where assurance lacks. Inadvertent indeed may be this process, even contrary to intention, but as with speeding, while this changes the guilt somewhat, it does not alter the rate of motion, or the commotion, the peril or the flaw.
Indeed, perhaps worse, it can even wait to be instructed by a church, and deem itself to be lacking till they should find their mind on the person concerned. The fiasco of what could thus readily grow into a fixation on a church instead of Christ, as a sort of critical mentor cum virtual mediator, that though the intention be the opposite, the reality when the Bible is so departed from, does not wait on it.
Thus in this irony of theology, adding to the word of God is found to come even to the opposite of intention, so that extreme deference and ostensible subservience becomes intrusive interference, and 'humble' hope is all too readily transformed into substantial failure to trust: so is the way, when some facet is featured and pushed beyond its scriptural index. However, ALL facets must be featured, NONE ignored, and nothing contradicted. Humility trusts because it has nothing to offer, in itself, its comrades or its race*2.
Is it really so hard ? : a man is justified by faith without works. When he is, he will work. Sited he can function happily. Secure, he can work laborious in sincerity and happy in industry. If he should go astray, and confront the truth, then indeed his faith should be looked at, for this is the function which is productive of works. Never confuse works with faith, or allow yourself to imagine that sanctification is part of justification, or that the methods of GROWTH are the methods of BIRTH.
however you try to grow before being born, delivery can be difficult. You can
get too big to be born! (cf. Luke 18:25). The time for growth is not yet: be
born first! If however, you are born, you grow. If you are alive, that is the
way it goes. If you are in fact not yet born, then that is why you are not
growing, spiritually. If you are sick, then seek health by FAITH, for
mountains, these can be moved by FAITH (Mark ). You need not take a shovel to
what is beyond you. God has the method of moving mountains; you use the faith
you have, specified as apt and adequate, provided it be in HIM, for whom
NOTHING is impossible.
AN AUDIBLE PITTER AND AN ACTUAL PATTER
IN LIFE AND THROUGH LIFE FAITH
So have we found the pitter-patter
of prophetic feet, but this time it is different. The prophetic power in this
case is THE SAME AS EVER. What God has said in Paul and in Christ His only
begotten Son, has always worked, has often been clouded by confusion, but when
taken as it stands, works as it is written. It works today; did yesterday, does
always, and mountains move routinely as if they were aware of the police (Mark
11:23), the mountain police which will let NO thing stand in the way of the
holiness of life, which comes from the power of God, through faith, objectively
placed in the only Saviour, Jesus Christ, once crucified, once offered (Hebrews
9), once risen (Luke 24:25), once ascended (Acts 3:19ff.), once to come for His
people (Acts 1) and ONCE to judge all men (Acts 17:30). So does it say from
Isaiah 35 to II Peter 1, and so is the keeping as in I Peter 1 and Ephesians
like a light in a dark place, is a wonderful confirmation, verification; but
CHRIST in you, and operative for you, as Lord, is a constant and continual exhibition
of the power which not only drafts events, and does them, but drafts promises
and keeps them. The one with the other is if you will, the pitter and the
patter, and the feet move not only mountains, but hearts and the power directs
not only deliverance but works (cf. II Timothy 4:17-18, Psalm 32, 73:24-28,
The putting of trust in the Lord (Psalm 73:28) means that one is enabled to declare HIS works, for it is He who saves, and there is no other (Titus 3:5-7, Isaiah 43:10-11).
So it is to be, until He comes and the earth is to "be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk , Zechariah 14;5, Matthew 24:36ff., Acts 1:11, I Thess. 4:1ff). ).
It is not hard when it is your
own. It is all HIS! (Psalm 100). Environments change; the Eternal does not. His
ways are His own, and they do not change (Habakkuk 3:6, Psalm 102:25-28); His
tests are His, and they have their testimony (I Peter 1:7). His testimonies are
His and they vary in nothing from what He has said (Psalm 119:138, 129, 104,
111-112, 140, 144, 160). His children are His, and they remain so (I John 3:9,
Titus 3:5-7, John , Ephesians ); His wisdom is His, and none else
has control over it (Proverbs 8). His mediatorship is His, and none shares it
(I Timothy 2, Acts 4:11ff., Hebrews 9). The future is His, and He knows it
(Isaiah 46:10). His people are His, they have faith, and they show it; and it
is He who enables it and is judge (Matthew 7:1, Acts )!
The term stoiceia is of great interest here. It means the elemental principles, the paradigms of thought, the fundamentals, the ordered series which constitutes a beginning, the rudiments and so on. In a phrase with "the world" in Paul's usage, it relates to something distinctive of a worldly system of thought and operation, in contrast to Christ, something perhaps naturalistic, polytheistic, but in any case a basic indoctrinative (as Thayer points out in his dictionary) composite drawn on fundamental blindness such as is characteristic of this world in precisely such matters. In our cultural-linguistic style, the translation here given seems to fit the intent of Paul and hence is the translation given. It certainly induces what he was talking about, which doubtless is the major thrust of translation. It is given in a PHRASE so that the whole conveys the whole of his own phrase.
This brings up the whole utterly fascinating aspect of language translation. If you do not translate the words as they come ('woodenly' is the criticism), then you may actually, despite a desire for purity of rendering, give a stilted version which has a different touch, or feel from the original, which may have been, for example completely fluent in its own language. If on the other hand, you translate with 'dynamic equivalence' as the professional phrase has it, then you run no less a danger, and perhaps more, for your own imagination can enter, perhaps unintentionally and certainly it should be unintentional if it happens! In the end, you have to ensure that precisely what was in one language, appears in the other.
In this way, in the view of this author, you cannot translate a well-known Palestinian animal in some part of the scripture, with one well-known in some other distant and distinct setting, or race, because to them this is the same sort of thing. That is NOT translation but interpretation and application. In that way, you are providing the work of interpretation in your translation and so interposing yourself between the text and the reader, in a way all but priestly! It is not enough to avoid priestliness in principle; it should be done in practice also, for our great High Priest needs no provocation. He is also wonderful, which none of us is.
In the case above, the meaning of an ordering of things, a series, a structured setting, and the renderings 'rudiments', 'elementary principles' and so forth, taken together, and put with the term 'the world', and the latter seen in Paul's usage, as a composite, allows the use of 'philosophy' in the sense of basic rendering of the structure of things, to be used.
Confusion loves to rampage in commonsense and biblically clear areas. There are those whom it serves. However, ignoring it, let us simply note that FRUIT as a mark of a church, is one thing. It is TRUE that a good tree bears good fruit (Matthew 7). Fruit, however, as a licence to be a Christian is absurd: it makes a condition out of a result.
Calvin is strong on marks of a church. These however do not create a church: they illustrate it. You do not wait for fruit, until you have a church, by faith, lest in waiting without faith, to find the faith, you neither please God nor are His child. Without faith, without actually believing in Him, you can do NOTHING (John 15). To wait for it to occur is like waiting for a black hole (if such there be), to disembowel itself, only worse, for the word of GOD is against such presumption.
Calvin on the
relation between fruit, into which work may indeed be presented, by faith, and
faith itself has quite sound things to say as can be found if one should read
in his Institutes, Book III, Ch. XIV, pp. 784-787, at sections 18-19. Thus we
“18. When the saints repeatedly confirm and console themselves with the remembrance of their innocence and integrity, and sometimes even abstain not from proclaiming them, it is done in two ways: either because by comparing their good cause with the bad cause of the ungodly, they thence feel secure of victory, not so much from commendation of their own righteousness, as from the just and merited condemnation of their adversaries; or because, reviewing themselves before God, even without any comparison with others the purity of their conscience gives them some comfort and security. The former reason will afterwards be considered (chap. 17, sec. 14, and chap. 20, sec. 10); let us now briefly show, in regard to the latter, how it accords with what we have above said, that we can have no confidence in works before the bar of God, that we cannot glory in any opinion of their worth. The accordance lies here, that when the point considered is the constitution and foundation of salvation, believers, without paying any respect to works, direct their eyes to the goodness of God alone. Nor do they turn to it only in the first instance, as to the commencement of blessedness, but rest in it as the completion. Conscience being thus founded, built up, and established is farther established by the consideration of works, inasmuch as they are proofs of God dwelling and reigning in us. Since, then, this confidence in works has no place unless you have previously fixed your whole confidence on the mercy of God, it should not seem contrary to that on which it depends. Wherefore, when we exclude confidence in works, we merely mean, that the Christian mind must not turn back to the merit of works as an aid to salvation, but must dwell entirely on the free promise of justification. But we forbid no believer to confirm and support this faith by the signs of the divine favor towards him. For if when we call to mind the gifts which God has bestowed upon us, they are like rays of the divine countenance, by which we are enabled to behold the highest light of his goodness; much more is this the case with the gift of good works, which shows that we have received the Spirit of adoption.
“19. When believers therefore feel their faith strengthened by a consciousness of integrity, and entertain sentiments of exultation, it is just because the fruits of their calling convince them that the Lord has admitted them to a place among his children. Accordingly, when Solomon says, “In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence,” (Prov. 14:26), and when the saints sometimes beseech the Lord to hear them, because they walked before his face in simplicity and integrity (Gen. 24:10; 2 Kings 20:3), these expressions apply not to laying the foundation of a firm conscience, but are of force only when taken a posteriori. For there is no where such a fear of God as can give full security, and the saints are always conscious that any integrity which they may possess is mingled with many remains of the flesh. But as the fruits of regeneration furnish them with a proof of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, experiencing God to be a Father in a matter of so much moment, they are strengthened in no slight degree to wait for his assistance in all their necessities. Even this they could not do, had they not previously perceived that the goodness of God is sealed to them by nothing but the certainty of the promise. Should they begin to estimate it by their good works, nothing will be weaker or more uncertain; works, when estimated by themselves, no less proving the divine displeasure by their imperfection, than his good-will by their incipient purity. In short, while proclaiming the mercies of the Lord, they never lose sight of his free favor, with all its “breadth and length, and depth and height,” testified by Paul (Eph. 3:18); as if he had said, Whithersoever the believer turns, however loftily he climbs, however far and wide his thoughts extend, he must not go farther than the love of Christ, but must be wholly occupied in meditating upon it, as including in itself all dimensions. Accordingly, he declares that it “passeth knowledge,” that “to know the love of Christ” is to “be filled with all the fulness of God,” (Eph. ). In another passage, where he glories that believers are victorious in every contest, he adds the reason, “through him that loved us,” (Rom. ).
“20. We now see that believers have no such confidence in works as to attribute any merit to them (since they regard them only as divine gifts, in which they recognize his goodness, and signs of calling, in which they discern their election); nor such confidence as to derogate in any respect from the free righteousness of Christ; since on this it depends, and without this cannot subsist. The same thing is briefly but elegantly expressed by Augustine when he says, “I do not say to the Lord, Despise not the works of my hands; I have sought the Lord with my hands, and have not been deceived. But I commend not the works of my hands, for I fear that when thou examinest them thou wilt find more faults than merits. This only I say, this asks this desire, Despise not the works of thy hands. See in me thy work, not mine. If thou sees mine, thou condemnest; if thou sees thine own, thou crownest. Whatever good works I have are of thee,” (August. in Ps. 137). He gives two reasons for not venturing to boast of his works before God: first, that if he has any good works, he does not see in them any thing of his own; and, secondly, that these works are overwhelmed by a multitude of sins. Whence it is, that the conscience derives from them more fear and alarm than security. Therefore, the only way in which he desires God to look at any work which he may have done aright is, that he may therein see the grace of his calling, and perfect the work which he has begun.”
In this, it is significant to note the following section:
"Accordingly, when Solomon says, 'In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence,' (Prov. 14:26), and when the saints sometimes beseech the Lord to hear them, because they walked before his face in simplicity and integrity (Gen. 24:10; 2 Kings 20:3), these expressions apply not to laying the foundation of a firm conscience, but are of force only when taken a posteriori. For there is no where such a fear of God as can give full security, and the saints are always conscious that any integrity which they may possess is mingled with many remains of the flesh. But as the fruits of regeneration furnish them with a proof of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, experiencing God to be a Father in a matter of so much moment, they are strengthened in no slight degree to wait for his assistance in all their necessities. Even this they could not do, had they not previously perceived that the goodness of God is sealed to them by nothing but the certainty of the promise."
Even in Calvin, to whom some might appeal, there is an explicit disjunction from anything in any way approaching apprehension of salvation because of good works: it is only an a posteriori thing, an aggregative verification. The faith that precedes is ALWAYS the vehicle of justification, the ground of assurance. The rest is as light in the night. It does not prove that day will come; it is merely a fitting apprehension to those, on other grounds, already convinced.
Calvin is noted here only because some may ill-advisedly appeal to him in this point. Actually, even if he or Augustine or any number of 'saints' spoke against the word of God, albeit without meaning so to do, the word itself ALONE determines this as all issues. It is precisely the failure to do this which leads so many astray, fearing lest this or that saint be departed from in his writings, as if silly giddy young dogs, fresh on every scent. THIS is not the way to achieve soundness or sanctity (Ephesians ), and is expressly forbidden as a basis even for a brand name (I Corinthians 3). It is in HIS words one abides, by the word of GOD that one is begotten, and to it one may add NOTHING (John 15, I Peter 1, Proverbs 30:5-6.
As Proverbs tells us, it is
His words which need no alteration, being pure; and to which one adds nothing,
being contrite and a companion of Christ as head, not a sad product of some
accident, arms and legs dis-coordinated, and unable to relate for concern for
each other, to the head. The best co-ordination is that which is found from the
head (I John 5:1ff., Col. 2:19, Eph. 1:22, -16).
This symptom, in essence, common since Pelagius, the frustrated monk who wanted people to look lively but found the source similarly in ultra-scriptural enthusiasms, in due course to be bound into the matrix of Pelagian and semi-Pelagian systems, is not found in this fruit-inspector misplaced zeal alone. That, it is important because it misdirects attention from Christ, the source of fruit by His Spirit, to attainment and other things of MAN. The distinction between marks of salvation and getting marks for it is not too hard to see. If you depend on men for your faith, then of men is it, and that, as Paul notes so acutely in Galatians 1, is nothing to do with the Gospel.
It is met, once again in an ultra-'Reformed' and super-sanctified way in the matter of 'repentance' sometimes. Not only can people misapply the Gospel by bringing faith in Christ according to it into the domain of fruit (instead of seeing this as an expression), but they do it here also. Thus the poor, straining harassed church member is not only asked, at times, to make people believe he has faith by fruit, and then, it appears, with their permission, authority or help, finding that yes, after all, he does have faith, and the proceeding to exercise it, but may ask HIMSELF or HERSELF, Am I really up to the mark, in my REPENTANCE PURITY!
Once again a work enters into salvation and once again, distress instead of assurance is readily the result. So long as ANYTHING depends on you, or others like you, in your salvation, then the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and you are partially subverted. If it is the quality or amount of fruit (not as testimony but part-ground of 'believing'), or the quality or amount of repentance, it is much the same confusion. It saddens and can be quite grievous, and can become a form of works righteousness, not as to the SUBSTANCE of salvation, but GETTING it!
It is quite astute, really, how people can be so deceived. STRESS the free gift and THEN, as it were in case they become quite liberated to Christ and His word, STRESS this or that which is INTEGRAL to your believing. As if believing were something from Mars, not something one either does or does not do! If one does it, certainly there will be fruit, and much of it hidden, if one's left hand does not let one's right hand know what one is doing (let alone the neighbourhood)! If one repents, similarly, one abhors oneself and can scarcely believe in the light of His truth, that one could so have sinned or He so have forgiven, because the SENSITIVITY is increased out of all proportion, and His knowledge is imparted as ONLY HE can! (John 16). One does it or one does not. To look at questions of the QUALITY of one's repentance or bulk measurements of fruit or any such thing is not only pointless, it is an unhallowed intrusion into the field of that ONLY name, such that there is NO OTHER NAME by which you MUST be saved (Acts 4:11-12).
What! and are you to add your own or that of your local congregation, as if Christ had His name on loan to them, and this was HIS name and these were His mediators! There is ONE mediator, and it is neither Mary, not Pope, nor Church, nor you nor your psychiatrist nor any other person. It is CHRIST, the sinless, the eternal, without beginning, on whom your sin - if you are indeed a Christian - is written, you have been given the grace to DUMP IT THERE!
Are you next to consider if the dump trucks are clean enough to be accepted!
How perverse the human heart, that so often a good thing is surrounded with human traditions, lest those who might enter in, should actually do so, in some cases, as Christ expressly indicated of many such foolish enterprises in Mark 7:7ff.!
Stand fast therefore in the LIBERTY by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage, yours, some church's, your theology's or your other imbroglios of spirit. CHRIST IS ALL YOU NEED! FROM HIM much flows; including eternal life, sanctifying power, grace, illumination, knowledge, personal acquaintance, constant high priestly intercession, power in fulfilling promises, the gift of righteousness. Let it flow. IN going, do not attempt to invent the salvation: simply express it with zeal! out of love, by grace!
This is a further marvel of the word of God. It is so astutely and pellucidly perfect in its teaching that you do better to start bringing a child into directorship in the tuning or servicing of an advanced jet engine, than start altering the thing actually written. It requires in the first place, understanding to do it; and in the second, GOD's understanding; and in the third, God's authority to change what HE has given from His own mind. The very thought is abhorrent, ludicrous; so that however innocent be the intention, however contrary indeed to the implication which so readily arises when moral desire becomes so blatant in itself that it even allows itself liberty WITH and not merely IN the word of God, the systematic results reflect the minimal mind of man in the presence of the infinite understanding of God. It wrecks things fast!
Let us praise God for His marvellous truth, its perfect coherence and its illimitable wisdom.
How beautiful that system, how fine that deposition, how of God alone the teaching, that man with good intention so readily ruins what God with infinite wisdom has given, when pushing for this or that, the carnal mind finds itself not in better service of God, but in opposition to Him, by going too far, and breaching here, or there, some word of God in its misplaced zeal.
As the Psalmist says, "Forever, O
LORD, Your word is settled in heaven" (Psalm 119:89), and
"the righteousness of Your testimonies is everlasting. Give me understanding that I may live" (119:144), and again, "The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of your righteous judgments endures forever."