RC Sproul: Works Will Make You Believe More
June 19, 2012, 10:45 am
Filed under: Galatian Heresy, Law/Gospel Distinction, Lordship Salvation

by David Bishop

In his book, Essential Truths of Christian Faith, RC Sproul argues that believers grow in faith by keeping God’s law.

“We are justified by faith alone apart from works.  However, all believers grow in faith by keeping God’s holy commands – not to gain God’s favor, but out of loving gratitude for the grace already bestowed on them through the work of Christ.” – pg. 254

In the very same book, he argues that some people are saved but do not know they are saved, because they have not assured themselves of their election by ridding themselves of sins that trouble their conscience.

“There are people who are saved but do not know they are saved.  These people are actually in a state of grace but are uncertain of it.  Perhaps they are wrestling with sin in their lives and doubt their own salvation because of a troubled conscience.   In this group are those who have not yet made certain that they are among the elect.” – pg. 201

He then follows up this ditty of a zinger by writing:

“The easiest way to have a false assurance of salvation is to have a false doctrine of salvation.” – pg. 202

How is it possible to have a false assurance of salvation by having a false doctrine of salvation, if at the same time it is also true that someone can be saved and not know it?  In such a case, both false and true knowledge are irrelevant.   False knowledge would not change the fact that a person might be still be saved but not know it.  After all, if knowledge doesn’t matter in regards to salvation (you can be justified by faith but not know it), then knowledge of bad doctrine does not matter, for you can still be saved but not know it.

Sproul’s assertions logically lead one to the idea that a person can know all the wrong stuff about God and yet still be saved but not know he is saved because the person knows all the wrong stuff about God.    Of course, I have no doubt that Sproul would deny a Hindu the credit of being named a brother in Christ just because he knows all the wrong stuff about God, but Sproul’s refusal would be logically inconsistent with his argument.   Truth in fact, Sproul’s assertions are absurd.  They are built upon the idea that faith is not only intellectual assent, but rather also a deliberate change in a person’s moral behavior.

“Though our good works add no merit to our faith before God, and though the sole condition of our justification is our faith in Christ, if good works do not follow from our profession of faith, it is a clear indication that we do not possess justifying faith. True justification always results in sanctification. This does not mean justification depends or rests on sanctification.   Justification depends on true faith, which in turn will inevitably lead to works of obedience.” – pg. 191

If it is true that faith inevitably leads to works of obedience, then it does not logically follow that justification by faith does not depend or rest on sanctification (Sproul defines sanctification as getting better about obeying more).   Sproul’s argument leads to a justification that does not actually justify!   When Sproul says justified by faith alone, I think he suspects the justification may not be real until a change in the person’s moral behavior (this is how he defines faith) proves that Christ’s righteousness was really imputed.    What this means is that Sproul defines faith as sanctification.  You get better and better about it, in other words, by doing moral works that prove you have been imputed with the righteousness, and the more moral works you do, the more certain you become that you have been justified.   How else, after all, could he argue that some people are saved but do not know they are saved, because they have either not assured themselves of their election by ridding themselves of sins that trouble their conscience, or they have false doctrine?

The Scriptures teach that God is righteous to declare His people just based upon what Christ accomplished for His people at the cross (Rom 1:16-17, Rom 3:22-26).  And what He accomplished was this: He propitiated God’s wrath for the sins of His people (1 John 2:2, Hebrews 10:1-10); He redeemed His people from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for them (Gal 3:13, Hebrews 9:15); and He reconciled His people to God by making peace with God by His blood (Col 1:20).

When God charges Christ’s death to a person, it is an accomplished righteousness that He charges!  It is a death that actually propitiated!  A death that actually redeemed!  A death that actually reconciled!  It is not a death that partially propitiated and partially redeemed and now waits to be finished by my works in order to prove God wasn’t lying when He declared me just.

R C Sproul argues that works will improve his belief in what he doesn’t know so that he can eventually come to discover what it is that he doesn’t know but might already believe.   Does anyone think this makes sense?

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5 Comments so far
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Yes your comments on Sproul’s ‘logic’ are correct. Essentially his idea is that of the SDAs: “saved by grace if I keep the commandments”, and thus “grace = grace + law” and “faith = faith + law”.

Propositional logic tells us that “if A then B” has the same truth value as “if not B, then not A”.

A: I am saved.
B. I try to keep the commandments.

If A then B (Sproul’s idea).

Which is equivalent to:

If not B then not A (if I don’t try to keep the commandments I am not saved), which is justification by the works of the law.

So Sproul actually has no idea what he is talking about. The doctrine he is espousing is the very antithesis of Christianity.

Postscript:

It is usually asserted that Lordship Salvation (the doctrine of Sproul we are discussing) is Calvinist. I am a Calvinist, and I can tell you most assuredly that MacArthur, Washer, Sproul etc are in no way Calvinists, for Lordship Salvation (which they all preach) is synergism and Calvinism is monergism.

Lordship Salvation preaches voluntary humility, which we are warned against at Col 2:18, whereas Calvinism preaches involuntary humility, involuntary faith and involuntary works. Thus Paul says: “For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me” 1 Cor 9:17..

Comment by Lawrence

No, Sproul has never and would have never agrees with your statement that one is “saved by grace if I keep the commandments”.
So you, not Sproul, have no idea of what you are speaking about.
Postscript: prerequisite to being a Calvinist means that you hold to calvinistic doctrine aka Calvin’s teaching. He would disagree with you and so would all who hold to classical reformed doctrine as well as most importantly, the testimony of scripture. (Eph. 2:10; John 15; Titus 2:14; James 2). There are countless scriptures that implicitly and explicitly testify that one is not saved by good works unto God, but that ONE IS SAVED BY GOD UNTO GOOD WORKS. Always and amen to that.

Comment by Brandon Rathbun

agreed*

Comment by Brandon Rathbun

I have a moderately “free grace” soteriology but have no theological training. I absolutely dislike the manipulative way people like RC Sproul like to twist the faith alone doctrine to “we are saved by faith alone but the faith that saves is never alone”.
In 1 corinthians 3, the group of people who produce works of wood, hay and stubble are clearly Christians who bear little or no fruit, but the apostle Paul judged them as being saved yet so as by fire. Hence, clearly a case of people being saved by faith alone and nothing accompanying such faith apart from sloppy and useless works
In contrast, the false professors in matthew 7 had many good works but were ultimately sent to hell by Jesus because their object of faith was clearly in their good works and not in Christ finished work. In such a scenario, the false professors were condemned for having a wrong object of faith even though their misguided faith was remarkably accompanied by many good works.
What can i conclude? My theological take is “we are saved by faith alone; but that faith that saves ought to (but not necessarily will) motivate the believer to mature unto good works”

Comment by Jonathan

Is this not what James says in his epistle by saying that faith without works is dead? “Ought to (but not necessarily will) motivate the believer”…. This is not what Jesus says in John 15 when he lays it down that those who love him will obey his commands…what is the #1 trait we can identify among authentic belief. Love for Christ. I hope you all will do some reflection on these things and the word. I might also recommend MacArthurs book the gospel according to Jesus for a clear and detailed representation of Lordship Salvation. We accept Christ on his terms and we cannot accept him as saviour but not Lord. When the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Cor. 12:3 that “no one can say Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit”, he is not saying that one is literally unable to call Jesus Lord, he is saying that one does not submit to Christ as Lord (grk: Kurios-Master) except those who are enabled by the indwelling Spirit.

Comment by Brandon Rathbun




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