Evidence of Conversion
March 27, 2012, 11:49 am
Filed under: Lordship Salvation

written by David Bishop

How many times have you heard someone explain the gospel as God’s promise to save sinners and to give them freely all the blessings of eternal life and heaven’s glory based solely on the righteousness established by Jesus Christ, freely imputed and received by faith?  Good stuff, isn’t it?  And rare these days too.  But now, how many times have you heard the same person who explains the gospel as this, and yet then turn right around and assert that works of moral obedience are the outward evidence that faith is genuine, and that in the absence of such works, faith is dead?  It’s enough to make you throw your hands up high in despair.

Salvation is conditioned solely on the righteousness established by Jesus Christ.  That righteousness can and will only be imputed to God’s elect freely, because Christ has already merited that righteousness, and because Christ has atoned for His elect’s sins.  If we therefore, in the light of this, are unable to merit Christ’s righteousness and can only instead receive it by faith, then we cannot possibly at the same time receive it by moral behavior change.   Either we receive it by faith or we do not.

A great deal of the confusion about this stems from a misunderstanding of this word, “faith”.   Most Calvinists today believe that faith is something more than the simple act of trusting that something is true.  The Lordship Salvationists are especially bad about this.   They attach issues of emotional satisfaction to faith, so that they define faith as a trust that is genuinely heartfelt and emotionally satisfying.  Apparently, it’s not enough to agree that 2 + 2 = 4.  No, nowadays we have to also check in with our emotions to make sure that our agreement with the equation 2 + 2 = 4 is really genuine and heartfelt.  Such thinking is abysmal; an intellectual and unbiblical abomination.  

I blame Luther for it.  Well, not really, but partially I do.  Luther gave us that horrendous analogy of a man who has an irrational fear of boats.   The man is afraid of the boat, Luther said, because he doesn’t believe it exists.  But this is absurd.  Of course the man believes the boat exists.  That is why he is afraid!  What he doesn’t believe are the things that people tell him about the boat – namely, that it will carry him safely across the harbor.

So it is with the gospel.  A person can believe Christ exists, but if he goes about seeking to establish his own righteousness, then reveals to us that he doesn’t believe certain other things about Christ.  Questions of ethical behavior do not enter into the equation.  Either I trust my calculator tells me the truth, or I don’t.  Whether I drink too much or sleep around are both beside the point.  The only thing that matters is whether or not I whip out a sheet of paper to double check my calculator’s math, because if I do, then it’s obvious that I don’t trust my calculator.

The double checkers are the people who tell me that moral obedience is the evidence of conversion.  Such people do not trust God. They do not believe that He is faithful to keep His promise of salvation based solely on Christ’s established righteousness imputed freely to His elect and received by faith.  This is why I find them checking up on their behavior every now and then to calculate whether any change in their behavior has occurred.

I am not suggesting that we not live in a way that pleases the Lord.  Of course we should.  And God has promised to discipline His saints if they don’t.   But this is never, ever the evidence that God’s promise of salvation applies to me.   The evidence that God’s promise of salvation applies to me is Christ Jesus alone, Him crucified and risen.  Has He accomplished the salvation of His elect by dying for them on a cross, yes or no?  Excuse me, I didn’t ask if you were getting better about not drinking, or whether you’ve stopped sleeping around, or whether you’ve begun donating more money to charity, etc, etc, etc.   I asked whether Christ accomplished the salvation of His elect, yes or no?

You see, when the Bible says justified by faith, it really does mean justified by faith and not instead justified by faith + empirical observation.  You either trust God or you don’t.

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9 Comments so far
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In true Gospel contrition a sinner comes to see and trust that Christ’s righteousness alone entitles him to all of salvation, including the subjective work of the Spirit, BEFORE he makes any efforts to obey God and persevere.

The godly contrite come to see that before faith in the true gospel, their best efforts at obedience, all that they highly esteemed and thought was profitable in recommending him unto God, is no more than “dung” (Philippians 3:7-8) in contrast with Christ’s obedience to death.

What they before thought was pleasing unto God and works of the Spirit, the contrite person now sees as “flesh” (Philippians 3:3-4). What they once highly esteemed, they are now ashamed of(Romans 6:21) and now, in light of the Gospel, counts it as fruit unto death, DEAD WORKS, and evil deeds.

The contrite person now sees that before believing that Christ’s righteousness alone entitled them to all of salvation, their thoughts of God were all wrong. In repentance, the contrite person turns from that old Arminian idol to serve the true and living God (1 Thessalonians 1:9).

This kind of true godly contrition can only come in light of the Gospel as it takes this light to expose the sin that deceives us all by nature (John 3:19-20). Before we hear and believe the Gospel we are all deceived by sin (Romans 7:11). The sin that deceives us all by nature is not our immorality, but trusting in our trusting and contrition. We must repent of our old evil repentance.

Comment by mark mcculley

Under the logical of your last paragraph, is it possible for a sinner to be saved because he has been chosen by God and because the death of Christ has effectively achieved his salvation, even if he still keeps a misunderstanding of the Grace of God, I mean he is Arminian (but in some way he actually has put his trust in the sacrifice of Christ)?

Comment by Oswald

is Oswald saying that the justified elect don’t believe the gospel, or is he saying that beiieving is the reason one becomes elect and justified? If he’s saying that, then he does not know or believe the true gospel.

Is it possible that God being sovereign is able to (and has already) justified sinners from objective guilt but still left them subjectively as still sinners? Is it possible that most Christians are still psychologically legalists?

II Thessalonians 1:10-12–”Those who are perishing refused to love the truth and be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they believe what is false, in order that all will be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

II Thessalonians 2:13–”God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this He called you through our gospel, so that you will obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

John 3:20–”Everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”

The Lutheran Jacob Preus ,in Just Words: Understanding the Fullness of the Gospel (Concordia, 2000) writes: “Faith is necessary to appropriate the reconciliation of Christ. However, our faith does not make Christ’s work effective. It is effective even if no one approves it, even if no one is saved.” (p140).

It’s not good news to make salvation depend on “appropriation”. But neither is it gospel to say that God saves people without them knowing the gospel, which honors and reveals God.

Comment by markmcculley

Marck,
Apostle Paul was elected even before he was faced with the Lord in the way to Damascus (or was he elected after that fact?). What I want to say is that is possible for a sinner to recognice Jesus as the Son of God, recognice that he is a sinner and see in Jesus and His death the only way to be saved because is the only way sins can be paid, and actually believe in the resurrection of Jesus (is not this the true Gospel?). But it doesn’t mean that he will understand everything about the grace, at least not accurately as you and me could wish. When you “became” Christian, I mean when the Lord showed His grace on you, did you inmediatly understand the grace in the way you understand it today? Were you able to expose accurate the five points of Calvinism? God, in His sovereign grace can save a person because this person has put his/her faith in Christ (having been elected, of course), and because this person has no an accurate understandng of God’s grace, and even in some points he/she could even deny SOME facts (Not ALL) about the doctrine of Grace, it’s not an obtacle to say tha this person is saved. When you “reduce” the Gospel to a mere intelectual acknowledge (read well) of important facts on salvation, can you call this “saving faith”?

Comment by Oswald

he only way sins can be paid,

mark: no that’s not the gospel, either a person’s sins were paid for or they were not. so Christ did not die to make something possible or to put a “plan” into place.

. But it doesn’t mean that he will understand everything about the grace, at least not accurately as you and me could wish.

mark: Of course I don’t understand everything. But you don’t understand anything about Christ’s death if you don’t know it was to satisfy justice for the sins of the elect. I knew that long before I believed the gospel. If you contradict that, if you say the opposite of that, if you say that Christ died for all the sins of all sinners, then you don’t understand the gospel. Period.

When you “became” Christian, I mean when the Lord showed His grace on you, did you inmediatly understand the grace in the way you understand it today? Were you able to expose accurate the five points of Calvinism?

mark: I was a lost Calvinist. Even the people who put Jesus on the cross knew about election. Even the Galatian false teachers knew and believed in election. Anybody who either denies or is ignorant of election does not know the gospel.

God, in His sovereign grace can save a person because this person has put his/her faith in Christ (having been elected, of course),

mark: a person putting their faith in their false jesus is not the “because”. Anybody who thinks that is the “because” does not yet know the true Jesus Christ.

When you “reduce” the Gospel to a mere intelectual acknowledge (read well) of important facts on salvation, can you call this “saving faith”?

mark: I don’t call anything “saving faith” and neither does the Bible because faith is necessary but not to save. It’s Christ’s death that saves. And who said I reduced to “mere” anything? Do you mean to “only grace” and “only Christ’s death” and “only the elect”? Is that what you mean by “merely”? Even if you attempt to take out intellectual assent, your false gospel still has an assent to falsehoods like ” can pay”…..

Comment by markmcculley

Thanks for the time answering my concerns, Marck. Regarding the “can,” I agree with you. Consider that I am a Spanish speaker and it could be difficult to me to express what I want to say exactly. Same case with the “because.” Of course I don’t reject the SOLAS, and when I say “merely” it is not about them but about the ONLY’s but about the external expression of your faith “reduced” to SAY “I believe in Jesus”. I’m saved just because of the works of Christ. I understand that before I was born again each “good work” I could do was totally infected by sin, so God hated it. My security of my salvation comes by what the Bible says and the testimony of the Holy Spirit in my life, NOT my works (I daily find myself committing sin), but I see how God has been transforming me for His Glory, seeing how the acts of my flesh are being progressively dominated by the grace of God. And for me this is obvious and confirmed at the end in an external way, impossible if not internal first, by HIS power only. I truly believe that. I preach that. My main concern is because in the article it is written that a life of delight in the Lord IS NOT the evidence of have been saved, but Jesus Christ only. So, don’t we have to expect a change of life in the lives of those who have confessed the Lord? I don’t mean we have to impose it, but only expect it. If not, how do we recognize a mature christian? How can we distinguish between a “veteran” Christian and a neophyte? If good works in the life of the Christian are not evidence (or at least part of it ) of his Conversion, what are they? Does not James says that faith apart from works is dead? For that I believe that “faith on Jesus” without ANY external evidence of the regeneration made by the Holy Spirit is nothing and works without a clear faith put on Jesus only is legalism and so dead works.

Comment by Oswald

but I see how God has been transforming me for His Glory, seeing how the acts of my flesh are being progressively dominated by the grace of God.

mark: So you are not looking only to Christ but to yourself and to the work you think He is doing in you. But all kinds of false religion are sincerely believed and result in people changing the way they live.

My main concern is because in the article it is written that a life of delight in the Lord IS NOT the evidence of have been saved, but Jesus Christ only. So, don’t we have to expect a change of life in the lives of those who have confessed the Lord?

mark: if you had a life of delight in the Lord Jesus, 1. you wouldn’t keep sinning and 2. you wouldn’t object to a gospel in which the finished work of Christ is the “mere” difference.

Have you stopped sinning? Are you saying that God saves people apart from the gospel? Or, are you saying that “Jesus died for everybody, so that they can accept him” is the gospel?

What gospel do the members of your family believe, and what does that have to do with what you want to say is the gospel?

Comment by markmcculley

PD: By CAN I understand an effective achievement; something different with MAY, a possibility.
BECAUSE, more clearly is GOD giving the faith (medium) for salvation, understood that it comes from God and not human will.

Comment by Oswald

I’m not understanding the separation or what doesn’t add up. God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be Holy. We are predestinated to conform to his image. All these work together and not separately. God has ordained our lives to hear and obey Him, this is grace. We don’t quit sinning without chastisement and a daily cross, which if one does not have is a bastard and not a son. We have been saved from our will and been made willing to obey God and bow to his will. Faith is doing the will of the father. We are declared innocent “justified” by faith working in us to Do his will. It is God which works in his children to believe and do. Faith works.

Comment by Tracy




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