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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Quote on Justification by Faith Alone | Main | The Cross of Christ by C. H. Spurgeon »

    Do This and Live by John Hendryx

    "He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury." (Rom 2:6-8)

    "If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." (Matt 19:17)

    What are we to make of the above statements by Paul and Jesus? Both of these texts plainly state that eternal life will be granted those who obey God's commandments. Since we have been taught that salvation to be by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, how are we to interpret such passages? I take up this important issue because there were one or two questions regarding the legitimacy of the concept of "do this and live" in my essay "There May be More Than One Way to God".

    It should be known that these law/gospel (two ways of salvation model) concepts I proposed in the essay are not my peculiar new invention but the classic understanding of salvation in Covenant Theology.

    When we preach the law to a person we are, in effect, saying "do this and live". Scripture actually reveals two ways that one might be saved in the Bible. These two antithetical covenants can be filtered down to "Do this and live" (Leviticus 18:5; Romans 2:13; 10:5), and "The just shall live by faith" (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 10:6; Galatians 3:11). These covenants are both based in the eternal covenant of redemption which was made in the eternal counsels of the Triune God (John 6:37-39). Both will come into play through the historical Christ. This first covenant was revealed in Eden as the original Adamic Covenant (or covenant of Works). In its most basic form it consisted of the command "Do not eat, or you will die." It is easy enough to see that if you restate P for ~P, you get "Do this and live." When Adam failed to live up to the terms of the covenant, he plummeted he and his posterity into the Curse of death. Now all who are "in Adam" are incapable of life through that original covenant. It should be noted that God also mentions, after the fall, that the way to the tree of life is blocked lest man eat and live. So there was a means by which Adam hypothetically could have avoided the fall, that is, by obedience to God for a period or perhaps by eating the tree of life.

    This is where I think we all need to really take note: Even though Adam failed to live up to the covenant with God in the beginning, this covenant has never been abrogated ...so, if it were not for Adam's bringing our nature into the bondage of corruption, it would still be conceivable that someone could be saved through Law-keeping. In fact, it is important to remember that we are indeed saved, not by our own works, but, by the works of Christ who "fulfilled the covenant" from our side.

    When we trust in Him we are saved by someone who was not only sinless, but who obeyed the covenant of works perfectly, obeying where Adam failed (Rom 5). He lived the life we should have lived and died the death we justly deserve. So, in fact, the reason we can be saved by grace alone is because Jesus took it upon Himself to do for us what we could not do for ourselves (i.e. obey the Law - our salvation by His person and works). For fallen humanity no one is able to keep the Law because of original sin and total depravity, but in Him we are counted as having kept the Law (Rom 8:3,4). So there is nothing inherently wrong with God's original covenant with man; the problem, of course, is with humanity, who exist in the bondage of corruption.

    So what are we to make of such passages as "He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life" (Rom 2:6-7)?

    This text is given to us by Paul in the context of building up a massive case for the universal sinfulness of both Jews and Gentiles alike; that all persons fall short of God's infinitely holy standard and are justly deserving death. So in this part of his argument, Paul is, in effect, explaining that that the covenant of "DO THIS AND LIVE" is placed before all humanity. But in what follows Paul tears down this edifice by showing that man is incapable of life by that covenant, so was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace.

    Being a human being "under the law" is a necessary part of the work Jesus did on our behalf. We could not be declared righteous apart from Christ's active obedience to the law. Being killed as an infant by Herod would not have done it. Jesus declared that he came "not to abolish the law but to fulfill it". That is, fulfill all of God's righteous demands that God commands of humans who are unable, due to sin, to accomplish themselves. Likewise to John the Baptist, Jesus said he should to be baptized by Him to "fulfill all righteousness." Jesus' humanity and law keeping is, therefore, an integral part of His work for us.

    God calls us to do things that we are morally incapable of. Why? Because the covenant of works still stands ... even though we cannot fulfill it. God has given all men over to sin that have might have mercy on them all in Christ.

    God has not rescinded His law which says "Do this and Live". We herald the law and the gospel to people (1) to let them know that they must obey the commandments of God perfectly to live. This is God's requirement for mankind. But (2) when persons recognize they are morally impotent to obey, then the law serves its convicting purpose. They then, seeing their own inability and spiritual bankruptcy can only flee to Christ for salvation.

    I think perhaps some may have difficulties with the concept of "do this and live" because of the doctrine of original sin. They know that man is a sinner by nature, and before a man does or doesn't do anything, he is guilty of sin in Adam - therefore, they have a hard time reconciling this (which is true) and the fact that God commands people to "do this and live..." because they see it as a less than genuine thing on God's part, for He knows they are already guilty (Rom 5:12). But God commands things in his law all the time which we are incapable of doing, and that is its purpose, that we might despair of all hope in our own resources (Rom 3:20)

    "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.'" (Galatians 3:10)
    "For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us..." (Rom 8:3,4)
    Posted by John on March 1, 2006 12:49 PM

    Comments

    Brilliant post, John. God's fingerprints are all over this one. Trying to provoke worship again? You succeeded, God's grace working in you, my brother and I bow to King Jesus everytime this theme lands on me. Sweet, amazing grace that saved a wretch like me.

    I second that!

    I must ask the question, was "Do this and live" meant for conviction only, or does it also include a picture of the required state of sanctification to inherit eternal life? Not perfectionism mind you, but obvious fruit from the Spirit manifested in the flesh.

    Jon

    Thanks for you question. If I am understanding your question correctly, it is critical to consider that Jesus Himself obeyed the command to "Do This and Live". In fact he was the only human being to have ever done so in the history of mankind. It was this act that was redemptive. Our acts or subsequent acts have no bearing on our salvation.

    In other words, entrance to the kingdom for us requires the kind of perfection that Jesus had. God demands absolute perfection in obeying commands such as the ones found in the Sermon on the mount... And if fallen humanity responds to God by recognizing thier moral incapacity to be like Jesus in this way, then the command "do this and live" has done its job. While God commands fallen humanity to perfectly obey His precepts, the demand is too hard for us and we should respond to our woeful inadequacy by saying with the disciples, "Who then can be saved?" And Jesus will answer, "With man it is impossible, but with God (through Jesus Christ) all things are possible."

    The law has other uses as well, as that of sanctification. But any true sanctification will also always drive us back to Jesus Christ. A.W. Pink once said:

    "Just as the sinner's despair of any hope from himself is the first prerequisite of a sound conversion, so the loss of all confidence in himself is the first essential in the believer's growth in grace."

    I do think that Jesus' intent in Matthew 19 is to show human sinfulness, but not Paul's in Romans 2. Paul says "to those who by patience..." a plural. Paul's point is along the same lines as James, in that our regenerating, saving faith in Christ is a faith that produces works of righteousness, and yes, we must indeed be righteous. Not because our righteousness has any salvific value, but because our righteousness is an expression of our faith that saves. I think that the Reformed tradition would be willing to embrace this, since we have long acknowledged that the covenant of grace was instituted in the Garden, and the law given by Moses served as grace to the elect by providing expression for their saving faith.

    Despite a small disagreement as to the proof-text, I agree with the substance of the article, and I appreciate your work.

    Jerid Krulish

    Thanks for your comment and glad to see we are in general agreement of the overall concept. Your issue is simply over whether this passage exegetically supports the same conclusion.

    You claim that >>>"Paul's point is along the same lines as James, in that our regenerating, saving faith in Christ is a faith that produces works of righteousness"

    But why do you think this? What contextually in Romans 2 drives you to have this interpretation?

    I believe If we look closely at the context of the passage in Romans 2, that it becomes clear that it would be quite out of place to be discussing our obedience due to "regenerating saving faith", as you suggest.

    WHY do I think this? Begining with Rom 1:18 all the way to 3:19 Paul is building up a massive case for the universal sinfulness of both Jews and UNSAVED Gentiles. This is the context of the passage.

    Lets Observe closely all of the text that immediately surrounds the text in question.

    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. ...they are without excuse ... God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. ...2:1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. 2:5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.

    SANDWICHED IN-BETWEEN THIS TALK ABOUT SIN JUST AFTER PAUL's ABOVE TALK ABOUT MANs WOEFUL CONDITION COMES THE TEXT IN QUESTION

    2:6-11 He will render to each one according to his works: 7to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 6He will render to each one according to his works: 7to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8but for those who are self-seeking[a] and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11For God shows no partiality.

    WHAT FOLLOWS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SANDWICH PAUL IMMEDIATELY MENTIONS PERISHING (due to sin) EITHER UNDER THE LAW OR WITHOUT THE LAW

    12For all who have sinned, without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. [that's everyone as he later argues in Rom 3]13For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them

    MY COMMENT: NOW if this passage were speaking at all about sanctification and obediece due to regenerating faith, would it be possible for Paul to be speaking about Gentiles who, he says, do not even have the law of God or the gospel to save them in the fist place? ... and Can Gentiles actually by nature do what the law requires?. Also please notice the text I highlighted in verse 12. Just after saying He will render each according to his works he then says 'FOR ALL WHO SINNED WITHOUT THE LAW [Gentiles] will perish'...and those who have sinned under the law [Jews] will be judged by the law i.e. by showing that all will be rendered according to works he sets them up for a fall in precisely the next verse. Both Jews and Gentiles are accused. Therefore, I would contend, this verse is not about post conversion obedience. Rather he is building the case for universal human sinfulness.

    If you can show us how or why Paul would suddenly speak totally out of context of this passage on universal sin and suddenly speak about our post conversion behavior then I would be willing to take a second look, but the context, IMHO, seems to me to validate the original interpretation. It is difficult then to see how we can interpret this as post-salvific obedience..

    May the Lord richly bless you.
    Grace and Peace...

    I find it hard to believe we are not saved by post-conversion works. In the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, the man gets thrown out because he's not yearing wedding garmnents (good works).

    Now, you can say works just the result of faith, but it remains true that "faith - works = no salvation."

    The Bible says all that matters is faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love (i.e. WORKS of love). Protestants twist Scripture to say faith is most important.

    Seems to me that one must make a distinction between initial salvation, which is by faith alone, and post-conversion works of love, which save.

    I wish I could be Protestant, as my fiance is. I've been doing research, yet I can't bring myself to believe it, since it lacks Biblical support. If anyone wants to help me with this, email.

    Gazelle

    Nice to hear from you again Gaz. Glad to see you are wrestling with important issues as always.

    IN your comment you said >>>>In the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, the man gets thrown out because he's not yearing wedding garmnents (good works).

    I believe the wedding garments mentioned here indeed may include works, but these are the works of Christ, not our works. If they were our own works then for what purpose did Christ live and die for us? To claim our own works will determine our destiny, would be asserting that Christ is insufficient to maintain our salvation. If we contribute anything to our salvation it is the same as saying that Christ's work is insufficient to save completely.

    Gazelle,

    If I may ask...why do you *wish* you could be Protestant? Is it only for the sake of similarity with your fiance, or is there something about Protestantism that appeals to you depsite the "lack of biblical support" you've described?

    When I got married, my wife was Roman Catholic and I was a vaguely Protestant guy who never went to church and just figured he knew what God was thinking. And boy, was I wrong. I, too, had difficulty finding biblical support for the "protestant" doctrines. In fact I *wished* I could become Roman Catholic! I was drawn to their structure, their fairly unified message, and their historical roots. Yet, though I at first could not find support for "faith alone," I was even harder-pressed to find biblical support for distinctively catholic doctrines like the Mass, purgatory, prayer to saints, brown scapulars, and indulgences. Frankly, I found that Scripture had to be "twisted" extra hard to squeeze those beliefs from it. (By the way, I worked straight from the Catechism and several Papal encyclicals during this time...not just what I heard second-hand).

    What finally pushed me away from Catholicism was the realization that I never truly understood protestantism! For years I thought the televangelist, prosperity driven, easy-believin' mass-market faith I saw peddled so cheaply in America was the true Protestant church. You won't find biblical support for "Just pray these five words, and welcome to the club!" Or "sign this decision card and you're good with God!" No more than you'll find support for the Immaculate Conception.

    As you and your fiance work through this, please don't mistake the garden variety, flashy "evangelicalism" that surrounds you with true, historic Reformed protestantism.

    I hope I haven't been too strident in my unsolicited feedback, but I only offer it as a fellow Christian who's struggled with many of the same issues, including a protestant-catholic wedding!

    God bless you both.

    Bill

    I agree that in general, Paul is building a case for universal human sinfulness. However, Paul does not write in chapters as if he were writing a textbook, rather, he is writing a letter. As we often see with Paul, he is given to asides, exceptions, and digressions. Verse 7 makes more sense as an aside or contrast. More like a parent who might, in the middle of a lecture to an errant child, say, “Look at your brother. He ALWAYS does his homework.” Verse 10 is also an aside/contrast. This seems to be in the spirit of verse 13, which, I think you will agree, is speaking of believers doing good works, (an oft-cited prooftext to demonstrate that Paul and James don’t disagree after all) yet that is still within the larger context of universal human sinfulness that you mention. 2.29 would be the same case.
    I only have Calvin and Matthew Henry’s commentaries available at the moment (from ccel.org) but my understanding is that I am in agreement with both of their commentaries on the verses in question. Not that they're a better substitute for the Holy Spirit, but they both have some pretty good track records.

    Again, it is of the highest importance to say that I certainly agree with your point that salvation is by faith alone. Our works are an evidence and outworking of true saving faith; my contention is that Paul has those works in mind at this point.
    -JeridK

    thanks bill. to answer your question in the first paragraph, it is both: the doctrines are appealing, although not in the Bible.

    Things like the immaculate conception do not have to be explicit in the Bible. Such are gathered from tradition and logic (Christ's human nature was sinless because his mother was sinless, for instance).

    Gazelle:

    Your example about the Mary's sinlessness may assume that sin is passed only due to a material physical decent as opposed to being passed federally from Adam. It is important to rememeber that physicality is not itself evil and so Jesus being in the physical womb of a sinner would not be the cause of a passing of depravity on to him. Matter is not what is evil. The very idea that matter is evil is a Greek concept not a Hebrew one.

    As an aside, if Mary were sinless, then she would have no reason to call God her "Savior" (Lk 1:47) (for, being sinless she would have no reason or need to be saved from ANYTHING) nor would she need "mercy" (v.50, 54)

    Her prayer, therefore, reveals that she relies on God's promises and grace and mercy to be redeemed just as everyone else does.

    Gazelle:

    It's interesting that you say Protestant doctrines, while appealing (why?), are "not in the Bible." I infer, therefore, that you do not accept them because you cannot find explicit support for them when you read Scripture.

    Yet in your very next answer, you assert that the Immaculate Conception is not explicit in Scripture, and doesn't need to be, but is rather inferred from tradition and logic. By your own earlier reasoning, you should either also accept (for example) justification by faith alone, by reason and tradition, or else reject Immaculate Conception (no matter how appealing!) for its lack of scriptural support. Why must one doctrine be explicit, while the other needn't be? I may be misunderstanding your position, but it seems as though you're operating under a self-imposed double standard.

    I encourage you to examine the historicity of the belief in Mary's sinlessness...I believe you'll find that it was explicitly contradicted by many church fathers (though not all), and didn't become widely agreed upon until much later in history, well after allegorical interpretation gained a strong foothold in the church. As John H. pointed out, the idea of flesh being inherently sinful was a Greek rather than Hebrew concept, so it would seem you're using extrabiblical premises to build a case for an (admittedly, on your part) extrabiblical doctrine.

    By contrast, just please consider the following:

    And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 1For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:1-10)

    I'm not trying to proof-text anything. There are many other passages in the NT that emphasize that justification is a gift, freely given by God, that precedes our sanctification and even our good works. Yes, this must be weighed (using logic!) against other passages, like James 2. But I think you'd have to agree that more support exists for "sola fide" than exists for the Immaculate Conception, no? It may not be immediately clear...but it's certainly hard to say it isn't in the Bible.

    Finally, if you'd like to read some well thought out answers to some very important questions, I'd recommend visiting Joe Mizzi's site, www.justforcatholics.org. He's a former Catholic who converted to the Reformed faith (and his brother became a Reformed minister!) and has the benefit of perspective from both sides. Check his claims about Catholicism against your Catechism and other official sources...I trust you'll find he hasn't misrepresented anything.

    Again, God bless!

    Things like the immaculate conception do not have to be explicit in the Bible. Such are gathered from tradition and logic (Christ's human nature was sinless because his mother was sinless, for instance).

    Then in that case, Mary's parents would have to be sinless too, and so on, and so on.

    As to the tradition portion...

    Clement of Alexandria doesn't seem to have viewed Mary as sinless. He refers to Christ as the only sinless person:

    "Now, O you, my children, our Instructor is like His Father God, whose son He is, sinless, blameless, and with a soul devoid of passion; God in the form of man, stainless, the minister of His Father's will, the Word who is God, who is in the Father, who is at the Father's right hand, and with the form of God is God. He is to us a spotless image; to Him we are to try with all our might to assimilate our souls. He is wholly free from human passions; wherefore also He alone is judge, because He alone is sinless. As far, however, as we can, let us try to sin as little as possible. For nothing is so urgent in the first place as deliverance from passions and disorders, and then the checking of our liability to fall into sins that have become habitual. It is best, therefore, not to sin at all in any way, which we assert to be the prerogative of God alone...But He welcomes the repentance of the sinner-loving repentance-which follows sins. For this Word of whom we speak alone is sinless. For to sin is natural and common to all." (The Instructor, 1:2, 3:12)

    Hilary of Poitiers disagrees with Mary's sinlessness:

    "On the incident of Mary and the brothers waiting outside for Jesus [Matthew 12:46-50], H. [Hilary of Poitiers] proposes a novel exegesis: 'But since he came unto his own and his own did not receive him, in his mother and brothers the Synagogue and the Israelites are foreshadowed, refraining from entry and approach to him.'" (Michael O'Carroll, Theotokos [Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1988], p. 171)

    Philip Schaff lists Leo I among seven Roman bishops who rejected Mary's sinlessness (The Creeds of Christendom [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998], Vol. I, p. 123).

    Gaz, if Mary was sinless, there must be God and Goddess, Jesus and Mary.Do I have to be saved by both or is one sufficient? If Jesus isn't sufficient, there's no salvation for anyone. If I need Mary for my salvation, the whole Bible is lacking lots of information about that and I need to know what it is so I don't burn forever in hell.

    Jerid Krulish

    Thanks for the interaction about this text in Romans 2. It is helpful to think things through with you. I would indeed be open to the possibility that here in Rom 2 Paul is "given to asides, exceptions, and digressions" except I wonder why would he suddenly mention this here as if for no reason unless it within the framewoerk of which I was speaking. It appears to fit quite well within the original context. But your interpretation is possible.

    Paul in Galatians 5:3, Paul uses a similar description. He says "I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace..."

    Paul clearly indicates that one may try to be justified by the law, but if he does, he must keep the entirety of it, and if one falls at just one point then there is no hope from him. In other words, "impossible". But he does actually seem to indicate that if one might actually obey the whole law, he would be pleasing to God. But, of course, such persons attempting such folly are denying the grace of Christ.

    This indicates this is a Pauline theme and, until exegetically convinced, I still believe in the high probability that this was his intent in Rom 2.

    As for Calvin, among other things, he says for Rom 2 verse 6, "who will render to every one, etc. As he had to do with blind saintlings, who thought that the wickedness of their hearts was well covered, provided it was spread over with some disguises, I know not what, of empty works, he pointed out the true character of the righteousness of works, even that which is of account before God; and he did this, lest they should feel confident that it was enough to pacify him, if they brought words and trifles, or leaves only...."

    Shalom

    Gene

    your point >>>Then in that case, Mary's parents would have to be sinless too, and so on, and so on.

    Is a good one since we can show from Mary's Geneology that a good number of the folks listed are indeed sinners of the kind like you and I ...

    I realize this article and all the comments under it were written 5 years ago... but I was so impacted by this article, I had to comment just in case John Hendryx was wondering if anyone still read this. This has brought SOOOO much clarity for me. Sooooo much! Works/performance has driven me most of my life and only now (I'm 24) am I beginning to see and understand that I'm saved by grace and what it actually means. It's not just a pretty sentence, it's a new way to live! I appreciate Jesus so much more and now clearly see why He is the only way. Thanks for writing this (5 years ago).

    7/13/2012
    Thank you for articulating the Gospel so well. My husband & I are going to do an evangelism outreach this coming weekend and your articles teach us how to clearly explain the biblical Gospel to sinners.

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