Destroying The Death Star – Part 3

Evangelicals believe their Faith-Alone Gospel (FAG) to be ironclad. However, like the Death Star, this formidable foe hides several fatal flaws. Those possessing the plans to the Death Star are able to expose such flaws and not only destroy it, but the evil Evangelical empire that has used the FAG to destroy countless lives.

The plans to the Death Star = The FAG message:

Salvation is earned through perfect obedience to God’s Law. Since however this is humanly impossible, salvation requires that we put faith (alone) in the God-man Jesus Christ, who not only died to pay for our sins, but lived to fulfill our obligation of obedience. God therefore imputes to those who put faith in Christ, both His propitiatory death, and the merit of His perfect life. As a result, the Christian is afforded a justification that requires no duty to the Law. Christians obey only as a consequence of their regeneration and the indwelling Spirit.

The 3 fatal flaws revealed in the Death Star’s plans (i.e., FAG):

1. The Merit of Perfection

“Salvation is earned through perfect obedience to God’s Law.”

“Man’s relationship to God in creation was based on works. What Adam failed to achieve, Christ, the second Adam, succeeded in achieving. Ultimately the only way one can be justified is by works.” – R.C. Sproul (Getting the Gospel Right)

2. The Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ

“Since however this is humanly impossible, salvation requires that we put faith (alone) in the God-man Jesus Christ Who not only died to pay for our sins but lived to fulfill our obligation of obedience. God therefore imputes to those who put faith in Christ, both His propitiatory death, and the merit of His perfect life.” “If Christ had only earned forgiveness of sins for us, then we would not merit heaven. Our guilt would have been removed, but we would simply be in the position of neutrality. For this reason, Christ had to live a life of perfect obedience to God in order to earn righteousness for us. He had to obey the law for his whole life on our behalf so that the positive merits of his perfect obedience would be counted for us. Sometimes this is called Christ’s ‘active obedience’ while his suffering and dying for our sins is called his ‘passive obedience.’” – Wayne Grudem (Systematic Theology)

The “Skywalker Shot” w/respect to the merit of perfection and the imputation of the active obedience of Christ: (Gal 2:21).

3. One-stage justification, the consequence of works and a monolithic view of the Law.

“As a result, the Christian is afforded a justification that requires no duty to the Law. Christians obey only as a consequence of their regeneration and the indwelling Spirit.”

3.1. The third fatal flaw of the Evangelical (or those holding to the FAG) is the belief that justification exists not in two stages (1. initial justification: gain by faith alone; 2. final justification: maintain by faith and faithfulness) – the biblical view, but rather that it exists only in one (gain by faith alone and remain by faith alone). Works (or obedience) are simply the result (or “consequence”) of this one-stage justification and the Spirit’s fruit in the believer’s life.

3.2. Westminster Seminary (CA) professor, R. Scott Clark, confirms “one-stage justification” to be the historical position of Evangelical Protestantism (in contrast to some of Evangelicalism’s most popular past and present pastors):

“The magisterial Protestant churches (i.e., the Lutheran and Reformed) and their theologians did not speak of, teach, or confess a “two-stage” doctrine of justification… One of the principal sources of the doctrine that we are initially justified by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide) but that by good works we are ‘maintaining a right standing with God’ (Piper, 1999), that ‘you are not saved through faith alone’ (Desiring God, 2017), ‘that final salvation in the age to come depends on the transformation of life’ (Bethlehem Baptist Elder Statement) was the English pastor and theologian Richard Baxter (1615–91). He is most remembered for his pastoral work in Kidderminster, which he described in his book, The Reformed Pastor (1656)1… The Reformed churches confessed ‘faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness’ and ‘And faith is the instrument that keeps us in communion with him and with all his benefits.’ The Reformers were well aware of the medieval doctrine of “get in by grace, stay in by works.” The orthodox Reformed in the 16th and 17th centuries rejected that doctrine in favor of ‘get in by grace, stay in by grace’ (as it were).”– R. Scott Clark (“Richard Baxter’s Initial and Final Justification”, Heidelblog)

3.3. R. Scott Clark’s reference to Richard Baxter and John Piper reveals the confusion that exists over justification within Evangelicalism. Piper has been vocal about his belief in a “two-stage justification” since 1999 in various sermons or written forms of communication:

“Works are not acceptable in the moment of initial justification. But when James affirms ‘justification by works’ he means that works are absolutely necessary in the ongoing life of a Christian to confirm and prove the reality of the faith which justifies..…For James, ‘justification by works’ means maintaining a right standing with God by faith along with the necessary evidence of faith, namely the works of love.” (“Does James Contradict Paul?”, 1999 Sermon)…The stunning Christian answer is: sola fide—faith alone. But be sure you hear this carefully and precisely: He says right with God by faith alone, not attain heaven by faith alone. There are conditions for attaining heaven, but no others for entering a right relationship with God. In fact, one must already be in a right relationship with God by faith alone in order to meet the other conditions (Foreword to Tom Schreiner’s book: Faith Alone – The Doctrine of Justification: What the Reformers Taught…And Why It Matters, 2015)…These works of faith, and this obedience of faith, these fruits of the Spirit that come by faith, are necessary for our final salvation. No holiness, no heaven (Hebrews 12:14)…In justification, faith receives the finished work of Christ performed outside of us and counted as ours—imputed to us…In final salvation at the last judgment, faith is confirmed by the sanctifying fruit it has borne, and we are saved by that fruit and that faith…So, we should not speak of getting to heaven by faith alone in the same way we are justified by faith alone. Essential to the Christian life and necessary for final salvation is the killing of sin (Romans 8:13) and the pursuit of holiness (Hebrews 12:14).” (“Does God really save us by faith alone?”, 2017 Sermon)…Present justification is based on the substitutionary work of Christ alone, enjoyed in union with him through faith alone. Future justification is the open confirmation and declaration that in Christ Jesus we are perfectly blameless before God. This final judgment accords with our works. That is, the fruit of Holy Spirit in our lives will be brought forward as the evidence and confirmation of true faith and union with Christ. Without that validating transformation, there will be no future salvation (“The Justification Debate: A Primer”, 2017).”

3.4. Piper recently re-affirmed his belief in final justification – or the need to maintain our initial justification through obedience by tweeting: “justified by faith alone? Yes. “finally saved” by faith alone? No.

3.5. Piper’s view is shared by other popular Evangelicals, including Norman Shepherd, Douglas Wilson2, Rich Lusk, Tom Schreiner and Mark Jones.

3.6. In Shepherd’s “Thirty-four Theses on Justification in Relation to Faith, Repentance and Good Works” (1978) 3 he states,

“Thesis 21: The exclusive ground of the justification of the believer in the state of justification is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, but his obedience, which is simply the perseverance of the saints in the way of truth and righteousness, is necessary to his continuing in a state of justification (Heb 3:6, 14).Thesis 22: The righteousness of Jesus Christ ever remains the exclusive ground of the believer’s justification, but the personal godliness of the believer is also necessary to his continuing in a state of justification in the judgment of the last day (Mat 7:21-23; 25:31-46; Heb 12:14).Thesis 23: Because faith which is not obedient faith is dead faith, and because repentance is necessary for the pardon of sin included in justification, and because abiding in Christ by keeping his commandments (Joh 15:5, 10; 1Jo 3:13, 24) are all necessary for continuing in a state of justification, good works, works done in true faith, according to the law of God, for his glory, being the new obedience wrought by the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer united to

1 Baxter said, “We are justified by sincere obedience to Christ, as the secondary part of the condition of our justification; is evident also from these following Scriptures: Mat 12:37; Mar 11:25-26; Luk 6:37; Mat 6:12, 14-15; 1Jo 1:9; Act 8 :22; Act 3: 19, 22; 1 Pe 4:18; Rom 6: 16; 1 Pe 1: 2, 22.” (Thesis 77). Clark comments, “Baxter rejected the Protestant account of grace and works in favor of the medieval view that when Paul says “works” he means the Mosaic religious ceremonies [or clean laws) and not our good works). He rejected the Protestant understanding of grace (favor earned for us by Christ) and works (our good works).

2 For support see Wilson’s “The Objectivity of the Covenant” (2003) and his adherence to Federal Vision whose fourth tenet (The Necessity of Obedience and Good Works to Final Salvation) states, “The Bible teaches justification by faith and the necessity of a Christian life of obedience and good works to final justification, the declaration we hope one day to hear: ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’”

3 Though able to defend his position biblically, Dr. Shepherd, a professor at Westminster Seminary (PA) since 1963 was dismissed in 1982 for his theses.

Christ, though not the ground of his justification, are nevertheless necessary for salvation from eternal condemnation and therefore justification (Rom 6:16, 22; Gal 6:7-9).”

3.7. In 2015, Mark Jones took the time to write an article not only supporting Piper’s position, but also its agreement with historical Reformed doctrine:

“I’ve been told that some folks are taking issue with John Piper…who agrees with [Tom] Schreiner, we are ‘right with God by faith alone’ but we do not ‘attain heaven by faith alone.’ He adds that ‘there are other conditions for attaining heaven.’ Based on what I believe is a charitable and straight-forward reading of Piper, there is not a single word in his Foreword [to Schreiner’s book]that seems out of place in terms of the basic Reformed approach to justification, salvation, and conditionality. Piper affirms strongly and clearly that works do not contribute to the acquisition of salvation. But Piper also wants to affirm that good works should be considered necessary for the obtaining of salvation4. I fail to understand how this idea isn’t present in literally dozens of Reformed luminaries from the Early Modern period. As Francis Turretin says: ‘This very thing is no less expressly delivered concerning future glory. For since good works have the relation of the means to the end (Jn. 3:5, 16; Mt. 5:8); of the ‘way’ to the goal (Eph. 2:10; Phil 3:14); of the sowing to the harvest (Gal. 6:7,8)…of labor to the reward (Mt. 20:1); of the contest to the crown (2 Tim. 2:5; 4:8), everyone sees that there is the highest and an indispensable necessity of good works for obtaining glory. It is so great that it cannot be reached without them (Heb. 12:14; Rev. 21:27).’ Again, Piper says we do “not attain heaven by faith alone” and Turretin speaks of the ‘Indispensable necessity of good works for obtaining glory’. I don’t see why we can’t agree that they are saying essentially the same thing; and, indeed, if they are, what is the problem? For those who have trouble grasping how Piper can affirm that justification is by faith alone, but that entering glory is not by faith alone, we must keep in mind the well-known distinction between the right to life versus the possession of life. Herman Witsius makes a distinction between the right to life (i.e., acquisition) and the possession of life. The former is ‘assigned to the obedience of Christ, that all the value of our holiness may be entirely excluded.’ However, regarding the latter, ‘our works…which the Spirit of Christ works in us, and by us, contribute something to the latter.’ Similarly, Petrus van Mastricht once wrote: “in so far as God, whose law we attain just now through the merit alone of Christ, does not want to grant possession of eternal life, unless [it is] beyond faith with good works previously performed. We received once before the right unto eternal life through the merit of Christ alone. But God does not want to grant the possession of eternal life, unless there are, next to faith, also good works which precede this possession, Heb. 12:14; Matt. 7:21; 25:34-36; Rom. 2:7, 10.’ Is there anything in Piper’s Foreword that could not have come from the pen of Witsius or Turretin or Boston or Ball or Owen or Rutherford or Mastricht? I’m having trouble understanding what the problem is both biblically and historically. In fact, I can point to works by authors in the Reformed tradition who have stated the matter perhaps a little more strongly than Piper does (e.g., Mastricht, Davenant). It seems one would have to have a built-in bias against Piper – perhaps because of his relationship to Daniel Fuller or perhaps for some other reason – to raise questions about the orthodoxy of his Foreword. And, let’s be honest, it is a serious thing to raise questions about the orthodoxy of someone on this point. It isn’t like we’re talking about complementarianism. Piper speaks of good works as necessary for attaining heaven. Reformed theologians have spoken of good works as necessary for possessing heaven. In my mind, that’s the same thing. And, quite frankly, I think that’s the better approach rather than causing unnecessary division where there really doesn’t need to be any. In sum, as Piper says, ‘there are other conditions for attaining heaven’. Or, by someone else: ‘The New Testament lays before us a vast array of conditions for final salvation. Not only initial repentance and faith, but perseverance in both, demonstrated in love toward God and neighbor…Holiness, which is defined by love of God and neighbor…is the indispensable condition of our glorification: no one will be seated at the heavenly banquet who has not begun, however imperfectly, in new obedience.’ And if you don’t like that last quote, you can take it up with Michael Horton [R. Scott’s colleague at Westminster Seminary, CA]. But I happen to agree with it completely.” (“In Support of John Piper”, Reformation 21)5. 3.8. Consider also Jones’ remark, “Good works are necessary for salvation, but not for justification.” (“A Critique of Jesus + Nothing = Everything”)

3.9. Rejection of this two-stage understanding is the reason many of Evangelicalism’s other popular figures (e.g., Phil Johnson) immediately accuse anyone espousing the necessity of works (or obedience) to salvation to be Roman Catholics or the Galatian Judaizers6. They fail to understand there exists a third option to understanding the relationship of works (or obedience) to justification: 1) Roman Catholicism: F+W=J, 2) Evangelical/FAG: F=J+W, 3) Covenantal Nomism/Marriage Covenant Gospel: F=J1 (Rom 3:28); F+W=J2 (Heb 12:14; Jam 2:24; Rev 20:11-15; Rom 2:6-11).

3.10. That being said, admitting to a “two-stage justification”, one that makes obedience necessary to heaven, is the minority position within Evangelicalism. And for good reason. Though it is the biblical position, it betrays the message communicated by the FAG. If salvation ultimately requires more than faith, then it cannot be said to be by “faith-alone.”

3.11. Those Evangelicals (e.g., Piper, Schreiner, Jones) who adopt the two-stage position, attempt to preserve their faith-alone position by placing works (or obedience) in the category of consequence (i.e., they are the inevitable result and evidence of saving faith and/or the Spirit). Such attempts however do not do justice to how the Scripture communicates those works (or obedience). Rather Scripture communicates that:

3.11.1. We (not the Spirit) are the ones responsible for producing works (obedience) as the essential component to (not evidence of) faith and other necessary condition for securing final justification (2Pe 1:5-11; Jam 2:14-26 w/1:19-2:1, 8-13//The question being answered: Can faith alone “save” [v14]? The answer is “No. It requires also our [not the Spirit’s] works [v18 “my works”]. IOW: “faith by itself [alone] is dead…useless” [v17, 21, 26]. Our “works must accompany our “faith” to secure [final] justification [v24]) 7.

3.11.2. We can fail to produce them and forfeit our justification/salvation (Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:1-6).

3.12. A major impediment to the Evangelical’s ability to discern the biblical gospel (or see the flaws in the FAG) is their monolithic view of the Law (i.e., the NT term refers to the entirety of God’s OT Law [never a subset]– especially those passages [seemingly] calling for its abrogation – e.g., Rom 10:4).

3.13. Deeper biblical analysis reveals the necessity of division or making a distinction within the Law between “works of the Law” (ceremonial/clean laws) and the Moral Law (all other commands). SEE Luther’s cap argument (Jam 2:24 w/Rom 3:28): 1) Whatever James is referring as works is different from whatever Paul is referring to as works. 2) The works James refers to are necessary to salvation (Jam 2:24) whereas the works Paul refers to are not necessary for salvation (Rom 3:28). 3) The works referred to by James are related to the Law (Jam 2:1-13 is the context for Jam 2:14-26; See also Jam 1:19-27) and the same is true for the works referred to by Paul (Rom 3:28 “works of the law”). 4) Conclusion: [4.1.] Since both James and Paul are referring to works related to the Law and yet only those works referred to by James are necessary for salvation, there must be a distinction in the Law (at the very least, a bipartite distinction: laws no longer needed for salvation versus laws that remain necessary for salvation). [4.2.] Any person not making such a distinction in their understanding of the Law (especially when reading Paul or James) – or interpreting Paul as against the entirety of the Law as necessary to salvation (e.g., Evangelicals), is grossly misinterpreting their bibles (e.g., FAG Evangelicals)8.

Closing Contemplation:

“Silence is consent; and we must speak to this issue when we are able. After extensively reviewing the work of (Antinomian) John Biddle, a rather exasperated John Owen said: ‘I am weary of considering such trash.’ Yet Owen did so because he loved Christ and his church. However painful it might be, ministers and theologians in our circles must deal with these issues, sometimes publicly if they are able, because of how many of Christ’s sheep are being influenced by this defective theology. If we do not, perhaps our silence really is consent.” – Mark Jones, (Antinomianism)

4 Herein lies the crux of many of the Evangelical’s problems (and continual embrace of the false FAG): the failure to recognize the non sequitur created by saying works are not necessary for the acquisition of salvation while equally admitting the necessity of works to the obtaining of salvation. 5 In conjunction with the previous words, Dr. Jones makes the following observation in his book, Antinomianism, “As someone with some scholarly acquaintance with post-Reformation Reformed theology, particularly in the area of Puritanism, I have been dismayed at some of the theology that passes as reformed, when in fact it has corollaries to seventeenth-century antinomianism.” 6 Phil Johnson recently tweeted against NEWPRO (who holds to a two-stage justification): “Your doctrine & behavior are genetically identical to the heretics who hounded the apostle Paul. Re-read Galatians. It was written to answer the exact doctrinal error you’re pushing.”

7 Evangelicals (e.g., James White) make Jam 2:14-26 about works as evidence of faith. Though they do function in that way (v18), the main thrust of James’ argument is their essential nature as an additional component to salvation. If evidence were apostle’s focus, then his argument in verse 17 becomes nonsensical: why is “faith by itself” deemed to be “useless” (or nonexistent) simply because it possesses no (ostensible) evidence of works? The nature of something’s existence is not dependent on evidence. Only in the epistemological sense is such an argument relevant (e.g., a murder that possesses no evidence identifying a killer does not mean no such person exists). In addition, White inserts a spurious definition of δικαιοῦται [“shown to be justified” v. “justified”] (vv21, and 24-25) to support his claim and avoid the instrumentality of works proven by the conjunctive (parallelism) that follows. See The God Who justifies by James White. 8 Historical and scholarly support for such distinctions: “We must bear in mind that common division of the whole law of God published by Moses into moral, ceremonial and judicial laws.” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4); “Paul could discern distinctions within God’s law which set certain commandments apart as applicable to all Christians, while others were irrelevant. This is tantamount to the division between the moral and the ceremonial law. Augustine introduces a distinction between the moral and the symbolical [clean/ceremonial] precepts of the law: ‘For example, Thou shalt not covet is a moral precept; Thou shalt circumcise every male on the eighth day is a symbolical precept.’ By symbolical precepts Augustine clearly means what would later become known as the ceremonial law…” (J.F. Bayes, The Three-Fold Division of the Law)

Destroying The Death Star – Part 2

Evangelicals believe their Faith-Alone Gospel (FAG) to be ironclad. However, like the Death Star, this formidable foe hides several fatal flaws. Those possessing the plans to the Death Star are able to expose such flaws and not only destroy it, but the evil Evangelical empire that has used the FAG to destroy countless lives.

The plans to the Death Star = The FAG message:

Salvation is earned through perfect obedience to God’s Law. Since however this is humanly impossible, salvation requires that we put faith (alone) in the God-man Jesus Christ, who not only died to pay for our sins, but lived to fulfill our obligation of obedience. God therefore imputes to those who put faith in Christ, both His propitiatory death, and the merit of His perfect life. As a result, the Christian is afforded a justification that requires no duty to the Law. Christians obey only as a consequence of their regeneration and the indwelling Spirit.

The 3 fatal flaws revealed in the Death Star’s plans (i.e., FAG):

1. The Merit of Perfection

“Salvation is earned through perfect obedience to God’s Law. Since however this is humanly impossible, salvation requires that we put faith (alone) in the God-man Jesus Christ Who not only died to pay for our sins but lived to fulfill our obligation of obedience. God therefore imputes to those who put faith in Christ, both His propitiatory death, and the merit of His perfect life.”

“Man’s relationship to God in creation was based on works. What Adam failed to achieve, Christ, the second Adam, succeeded in achieving. Ultimately the only way one can be justified is by works.” – R.C. Sproul (Getting the Gospel Right, p.160)

Fatal Flaw: The merit of perfection (or the Covenant of Works) is taught nowhere in the Scriptures.

2. The Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ

“…the God-man Jesus Christ…not only died to pay for our sins, but lived to fulfill our obligation of obedience. God therefore imputes to those who put faith in Christ, both His propitiatory death, and the merit of His perfect life.”

2.1. The second fatal flaw of the FAG is the assumption that the imputation of Christ’s death for our sins (His “passive obedience”) was not enough to get us to heaven. We also need the imputation of His perfect obedience – or perfect law-keeping which He accomplished during His earthly life. In theological circles this is referred to as the imputation of the active obedience of Christ.

2.2 Though communicated among Evangelicals as if this assumption originates in Scripture, in reality it is the product of its predecessor (the merit of perfection). The impossibility of perfection makes necessary the possibility of Christ’s obedience for us.

2.3. Given this essential connection, it is no surprise then that like the merit of perfection (most specifically, the Protestant Reformer’s doctrine of the Covenant of Works), there is no mention of the active obedience doctrine before the 16th century. French theologians John Calvin and Theodore Beza seem to be the first to write explicitly to the subject: 1) Calvin (1554), “Because we cannot attain to righteousness, but by fulfilling the law in all points, and by being discharged before God: it behooved our Lord Jesus Christ to be subject to the law, to the intent that his obedience might now be imputed unto us, and God accept thereof as though we brought the like obedience of our own.”. 2) Beza (1570), “We are justified before God, that is, held to be and declared righteous, because the obedience of Christ is imputed to us, which consists of two distinct parts, the satisfaction for our sins, and the full observance of all legal righteousness.” 1

2.4. Lack of historical evidence prior to the Reformation, has caused some Evangelical scholars to go on the defensive when discussing its validity to the doctrine of justification (i.e., salvation): “Informed Protestants would not want to say that the Reformation invented their understanding of justification.” – D.A. Carson (“The Vindication of Imputation in Justification: On Fields of Discourse and Semantic Fields,” in Justification: What’s at Stake in Current Debates)

2.5. To be fair, not all the Reformers embraced the Active Obedience doctrine (e.g., Kargius, Piscator, Gataker, Twisse, and Vines). The same is true today. There are those within Evangelicalism who reject the imputation of the active obedience of Christ as necessary to justification or salvation (e.g., Evangelicals holding to New Covenant Theology, Evangelicals holding to Federal Vision). In large part however, this was the doctrine held by the Protestant Reformers and remains the popular position within Evangelicalism today. Like the Covenant of Works, examples of this teaching abound in Evangelical confessionals, books, articles, correspondence and social media:

2.5.1. Heidelberg Catechism (16th century Protestant Confessional), Question and Answer, #60:

“Question: How are thou righteous before God?

Answer: Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me…”

2.5.2. Patrick Gillespie (late pastor of the High Church of Glasgow, principal of the University of Glasgow), The Ark of the Covenant:

“Christ is a doer and fulfiller of the covenant of works most exactly in all points, both the command, and the curse and penalty of the Covenant, is satisfied by him; this is works, and this was the condition required upon his part…”

2.5.3. William Cunningham (late Anglican priest and church historian), Historical Theology:

“And as there is no perfect righteousness in men themselves to be the ground or basis of their being accepted or admitted to favor and happiness—as they can no more render perfect obedience than they can satisfy for their sins—Christ’s perfect obedience must become theirs, and be made available for their benefit, as well as His suffering,—His merit as well as His satisfaction.”

2.5.4. Louis Berkhof (late Reformed theologian, Systematics professor and president of Calvin Seminary), Systematic Theology:

“If He (Christ)had merely paid the penalty (for the believer) without meeting the original demands of the law (for the believer), He would have left man in the position of Adam before the fall, still confronted with that task of obtaining eternal life in the [impossible] way of obedience [the merit of perfection]. By His active obedience, however. He carried His people beyond that point and gave them a claim to everlasting life.”

2.5.5. J. Gresham Machen (late Reformed theologian and scholar, founder of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church), “The Active Obedience of Christ”: “If Christ had merely paid the penalty of sin for us and done nothing more we should be at best back in the situation in which Adam found himself when God placed him under the covenant of works… [As a result our] attainment of eternal life would have been dependent upon our perfect obedience to the law of God [and we would be certain to fall]. [Christ was therefore] our representative both in penalty paying and in probation keeping. [And that for those who have been saved by him, the probation is over since] Christ has merited for them the reward by his perfect obedience to God’s law.”

“SO THANKFUL FOR THE ACTIVE OBEDIENCE OF CHRIST. NO HOPE WITHOUT IT.” (Dying words to John Murray via telegram)

1 Calvin: Sermons On Deuteronomy; Beza: Quaestionum et responsionum Christianarum libellus; For further study see Bill Berend’s essay, “Christ’s Active Obedience in Federal Theology”

2.5.6. Wayne Grudem (Evangelical theologian), Systematic Theology: “If Christ had only earned forgiveness of sins for us, then we would not merit heaven. Our guilt would have been removed, but we would simply be in the position of neutrality. For this reason, Christ had to live a life of perfect obedience to God in order to earn righteousness for us. He had to obey the law for his whole life on our behalf so that the positive merits of his perfect obedience would be counted for us. Sometimes this is called Christ’s ‘active obedience’ while his suffering and dying for our sins is called his ‘passive obedience.’” (“The Active Obedience of Christ”; Systematic Theology)

2.5.7. Kim Riddlebarger (Reformed theologian and author), “Telling People the Truth in Love: A Reformed Approach to Evangelism”:

“The only ground of salvation is the finished work of Jesus Christ–both in his active and passive obedience. In Christ, God satisfies the demands of the law. And in Christ’s sacrificial death, God removes the guilt of our sin.” 2.5.8. Tullian Tchividjian (pastor of Sanctuary Church, FL, and Evangelical author), Jesus + Nothing = Everything:

“God imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed any sin, and myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me.”

2.5.9. Pat Abendroth (pastor of Omaha Bible Church, NE), “COVENANT THEOLOGY FOR THE UNINFORMED, UNSYMPATHETIC, AND MISINFORMED”:

“For justification (the declaration that sinners are righteous) requires more than the removal of guilt by atonement as essential as atonement is. A positive upholding of the law is the required standard of righteousness. The work of Jesus provides both the payment of the law’s required penalty as well as fulfillment of the positive demands.”

(Tweets) 2.6.0. Scotty Ward Smith (pastor emeritus of Christ Community Church, TN) “I’m such a mess it took Jesus’ life of perfect obedience & his substitutionary death on the cross to redeem me.” 2.6.1. Tullian Tchividjian “The good news of the gospel is that my standing with God is not dependent on my obedience but Christ’s obedience for me.” 2.6.2. Paul Tripp (Evangelical counselor and author)

“You’ve been called to submit, but rest is never found in your submission, but Christ’s willing submission to the Father on your behalf.” 2.6.3. Elyse Fitzpatrick (Evangelical writer) “For every time I’ve stamped my foot and say, ‘This isn’t what I want!’ the Father hears the Son’s, ‘Not my will but Thine’ instead.’” 2.6.4. Steve Lawson (president of OnePassion Ministries and professor of preaching at The Master’s Seminary) “Not only did Christ die in our place, He also lived in our place.

2.7. Verses massacred by Evangelicals in their attempt to support this doctrine include:

2.7.1. (Mat 5:17) “fulfill” = Jesus came to see that the prophecies concerning the Davidic King and God’s law were fulfilled (Eze 37:24 w/Isa 2:1-3)

2.7.2. (Rom 5:10) “His life” = We are reconciled by His death and saved (get eternal resurrection) b/c of His resurrected “life” (1Pe 1:3; 1Co 15:19-22)

2.7.3. (Rom 5:18-19) “Therefore = Drawing a conclusion based on the previously established truth (v9); “one’s man’s disobedience” (literally one act of disobedience = Adam’s fall into sin) is compared to Christ’s one act of obedience (“one man’s obedience” – i.e., His obedience in death – Phi 2:8)

2.7.4. (Rom 8:3-4) “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us” = According to prophecy (Eze 11:19-20, 36:25-27), Christ’s propitiation brings the regeneration and renewal (see ch 6), that now empowers us to faithfully obey God (“who walk not according to…”).

2.7.5. Righteousness passages (1Co 1:30; 2Co 5:21; Rom 10:3-5; Phi 3:9) “righteousness” [δικαιοσύνη] = Justification (e.g., Rom 1:17). The justification (righteousness) secured by Christ is exclusively tied to His death (and never His life) (e.g., Rom 3:21-26, 4:25, 5:9; Heb 10:14).

2.8. Implications: the implication of the active obedience doctrine may be worse than the Scriptures they massacre to support it.

2.8.1. it negates Christ’s cross-work.

If righteousness is gained through the obedience of Christ’s life, Christ died in vain. After living the perfect life, Jesus should have simply ascended back to heaven having completed what (according to Evan), can not only be imputed to our account, but serves as the only thing that truly makes righteous before God (i.e., what God requires is perfection not propitiation). 2

“If we are made just (righteous) through (Christ’s) life, there would be no compelling reason why he would die for us… If [however] we obtain perfect righteousness through the imputation of Christ’s passive obedience [His death], we certainly do not obtain it through the imputation of his active obedience, since you can add nothing to what is complete (Heb 10:14).” – Johannes Piscator (Epistle 68; Apologia)

2.8.2. it makes God unjust.

Evangelicals also believe Christ’s death to be penal (i.e., God punishing Christ for our sins). Assuming both this and the doctrine of active of obedience are true, places God in the position of being unjust since punishment is no longer required for those who are (now) perfectly righteous.

“Indeed, the justice of God does not allow that the righteous be punished… If Christ by the obedience of his life had satisfied God [by making us righteous]… it would follow that God is unjust, who -in addition, required to be satisfied through the obedience of [His] death…” – ibid (Epistle 68)

2.8.3. it removes the believer’s obligation to obedience.

The imputation of Christ’s active obedience renders our obligation to obedience null and void.

“If Christ satisfied for our sins by obedience performed to the law, so that such obedience is imputed to us by God as if we had performed it, it follows that we have been freed from obedience to the law, since Christ hypothetically performed it for us or in our place; just as we correctly say with the Apostle “we are freed from the curse of the law because Christ was made a curse for us” [Gal. 3: 13]. However, we are not freed from obedience to the law, but we have to perform it to God for ever. Therefore, Christ did not satisfy for our sins by the obedience performed to the law.” (Epistle 68)3

2.8.4. it violates God’s prohibition against vicarious imputation

God’s law makes it clear that the good or bad of another human being cannot be transferred to the account (moral standing) of another (Eze 18:1-32).

2.8.5. it reestablishes the Catholic doctrine of neutrality with respect to the creation of man.

One of the few highpoints of the Protestant Reformation was its rejection of Catholic anthropology (Adam and Eve were created morally neutral) in favor of the biblical view: God created our first parents as morally righteous (Gen 1:31) (a position they therefore needed only to maintain – not merit). Through the introduction of the active obedience doctrine, this position was reversed (Grudem, “we would simply be in the position of neutrality”).

2.9. The Skywalker shot: the verse that destroys both assumptions: the merit of perfection and the imputation of the active obedience of Christ (Gal 2:21).

2 Though John Owen attempted to refute this argument by saying that chronological order need not be followed by God in the process of imputation (The Doctrine Of Justification By Faith), it fails on two fronts: 1) it violates one of God’s most important principles for determining truth (i.e., the chronological order of events – e.g., Gen 1; Evan’s argument re: the place of works w/respect to justification). Which begs the question, even if God could violate it, why would He – especially given the importance of the active obedience doctrine if it were true? 2) it entirely misses the ontological truth established by the argument. If Christ’s obedience can be imputed – and we the recipients afforded the merits of perfect righteousness through it, then the sin previously committed hypothetically no longer exists (removing the need for atonement).

3 In his book Blown by the Spirit, David Como makes the connection between the active obedience of Christ doctrine and the emergence of an antinomian underground in 17th century England, “Those who earn the epitaph ‘antinomian’ all saw demands for godly living as a new form of works righteousness and outward, literal, and legalistic religiosity that nurtured a slavish devotion to the law. Hence, godly preachers were routinely likened to Jews, Rabbis or Papists, while antinomian preachers often claimed to be the ones promoting the true Christian message of free grace and justification by faith apart from works, any works, legal or otherwise. Outward godliness and the demand for moral reformation were seen by them as Pharisaical error. The antinomians stressed the passivity of the believer in relation to moral obligations. Their freedom from the law was the result of the fact that they believed the law had been fulfilled…already by the believer’s identify with Christ. By virtue of this, believers were free from any obedience to the law. Believers were not inherently pure but rather rendered imputatively perfect via the holy life [obedience] of Christ.”