1]SECTION : I. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
Q. 35. What is sanctification? A. Sanctification is the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
The previous quotes are from the Westminster Confession of Faith(WCF). These quotes refute much of what Matt stated in his opening statement. Matt constantly engaged in strawmen, false dilemmas, and non-sequiturs fallacies. I will pint these fallacies out and refer to the above quotes throughout this rebuttal.
2]It doesn't take my opponent long in his opening before he commits some of the logical fallacies I mentioned above. For instance in the second paragraph he makes the following statements:
He will argue that good works are important, and even necessary to show that we indeed are saved, but can never be the grounds of our justification. Ironically, this view actually makes Christ's death insufficient to cleanse us from sins' bondage.The emphasized statement is not only a non sequitur, but it is also a strawman argument. It is non sequitur because it does not logically follow. How does the belief that our good works can never be the grounds of our justification result in the conclusion that, Christ's death is insufficient to cleanse us from the bondage of sin? Now if Matt can show why this is a logically necessary conclusion I'm all ears. If not he is also guilty of a strawman argument because I do believe Christ's death is sufficient to cleanse and save us from the bondage of sins(refer to quote 1 above).
In the next sentence Matt then gratuitously declares, "The Bible teaches however, that in justification Christ does accomplish this cleansing. Of course this is a pivotal point in this entire debate, therefore to ipse dixit proclaim this without a shred of evidence will not cut it. The issue is Matt believes we are made righteous in justification and I believe we are declared righteous in justification(John 5:24, Luke 18:13-14; Romans 5:1, Romans 5:9; Galatians 2:16; et al) and made righteous in sanctification. Therefore, Matt is simply begging the question on a most crucial point. This lack of understanding or imprecision of my position dominates Matt's thought. Matt continues in the same vein whenever he talks about the role of good works. Most Protestants recognize that salvation is broad concept that not only encompasses justification, but sanctification, glorification, adoption, regeneration, et al. Therefore, when Matt claims as children of God we produce good works and obedience which do become necessary for salvation, I could agree with him depending on what he means by the word salvation. As the quote from the WCF above state, without holiness no one will see the Lord.
REBUTTAL: "SONSHIP AND GRACE"
4]Unfortunately Matt continues in this vein in paragraph 3. He harps on the point that Jesus came to save us from the power of sin as if I deny this( I don't refer to the quotes above). Also he talks as if this is the only reason Jesus came. However, the Scriptures also testify with the following:
Romans 5:9 ... having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.Jesus came to save sinners, but as I stated above salvation is a broad concept. Therefore, Jesus not only came to save us from the bondage of sin, but he also came to save us from the wrath of God, which is our justification. Therefore, Matt spends a lot of time attempting to make a point that I don't disagree with.
5]In paragraph 4 Matt states our justification is based on our adoption in Christ and provide John 1:12 in parenthesis as a proof text. This verse in noway confirms Matt's statement. The only logical way it can be used to confirm his statement is if he uses it illogically by begging the question that is at hand. On the contrary, the Scriptures clearly state that we are at enmity with God(Eph 2), and God's wrath abides on us(John 3:36). This remains our state until we are justified by faith(Rom 5:1). It is only after this event happens that we become adopted children of God. Matt should try this one again.
6]He continues in paragraph 4 by stating justification is not a courtroom relationship as Ronnie believes, but instead it is a Father-Son. God as the judge of the entire world first declares us righteous, which is justification and then we are adopted as His children. It is then that the loving Father-Son relationship begins and endures throughout eternity. It is ironic that Matt takes exception with my view of a forensic justification, but extols his view of a Father-Son justification yet you will find nothing of a Father-Son relationship in his judgment section below. The section is filled with condemnations, acquittals, punishment, and rewards based on a set standard. Where is the Father-Son relationship in this? It is also ironic because there is not much of Father-Son relationship when it comes to the Father dealing with His children First of all, according to Matt's view EVERY sin after Baptism must be punished in this life or purgatory. This so-called Father-Son relationship that Matt holds to is more complex than most legal contracts. There is temporal punishment, eternal punishment, plenary indulgences, partial indulgences, penance, mortal sins, venial sins, confession, absolution, perfect contrition, imperfect contrition, treasury of merit, et al. All of these terms are interrelated and defined what a son must do in order to receive forgiveness and pay the debt owed to His Father for his sin. On top of all of this there are still some sons that will end up paying their debt to the Father eternally in hell. All of this is done in the name of Divine justice, or should I say Fatherly justice?
7]Now in my view once you become a son, which takes place after justification you are truly a son. The Father does discipline His children as Hebrews 12 states, however it is not based on the contractual, legalistic terms that Matt's system demands. It is a loving relationship that does not demand punishment for every single sin we commit. Just as we do not punish our kids for every single sin they commit. However, this relationship is not possible in Matt's system because Christ did not pay the price for all of his sins. However, we agree with the Apostle Paul:
Gal.2:20 I have been crucified with Christ... I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
For a reply to Matt's paragraph 5 I simply ask you to read the two quotes from the WCF at the beginning of this rebuttal.
In paragraph 6 Matt again engages in his narrow view of the reason Christ came and his narrow view of what salvation means. All of this has been answered above.
8]Matt's misunderstanding of the issue causes him to ask an improper question in paragraph 7. He asks, "Does God declare us righteous and the process of making us righteous is only a effect of salvation" or "does God really make us righteous in Justification"? The first question from my perspective should be stated, "Does God declare us righteous in justification and the process of making us righteous is only an effect our justification?" The answer to that question would be, no. God starts the process of our being made righteous with regeneration, which I believe happens before justification. However, the point is that we are not justified based on our justification or anything else that maybe happening to us. We are justified by grace through faith in Christ alone. Matt has been going on and on about the process of justification, yet he has not presented any evidence from Scripture that justification is a durative process. He just keep stating that it is. Matt then asks the question, "Is Christ's death sufficient to cleanse us, or insufficient to do so?" I believe Christ's death is sufficient to cleanse us, but it is also sufficient for so much more. The question that Matt should answer is, "Is Christ's death sufficient to save all those who put their faith in Him or insufficient to do so?" Matt then goes on to quote Rom. 5:17-19 as if agreeing with his statement would prove something. I believe we are made righteous, read the above quotes. Matt would have to prove that the verses are talking about being made righteous in justification. However, I don't even agree with interpretation and I think these verses only hurt his position. Romans 5:19 says,
For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
9]Matt highlighted the "many will be made righteous" as if it confirms his point that we are made righteous in justification by infused righteousness. On the contrary, Paul's thought goes back to verse 12 where he states:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned
Paul spends the next 7 verses explaining how all sinned. One point that stands out is that Paul is attributing universal death and condemnation to the one sin of the one man Adam. This is shown in the following verses:
5:15 "... transgression of the one the many died ..." 5:16 "... the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation,..."
5:17 "... by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one ..."
5:18 "... through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men ..."
5:19 "... through the man's disobedience the many were made sinners ..."
10]Paul repeats this point over and over to emphasize that the sin of one man is equivalent to the actual personal sin of all. This oneness emphasis shows that Matt's exegesis is flawed. According to Matt, Paul is speaking about transmitted individual ontological propensity to sin, therefore he comes to the conclusion that the righteousness is the individual's own. However, Matt's interpretation does not fit and therefore his conclusion is also flawed. His interpretation of individual ontological sinfulness does not fit with Paul's insistence on the one sin of the one man.
11]In paragraph 8 Matt makes the assertion that the matter is a no-brainer, because one explicitly contradicts the bible if one says we are justified by faith alone, and works do not justify. Matt says this because of James 2. However, this same dog bites him in the butt. Matt started off his opening with the following question:
This debate answers the most important question that anyone can find an answer to: What does the Bible teach on what I must do to saved ?"Of course my answer to this question is the same answer given by the Apostle Paul and Silas when asked thisexact question:
Acts 16:30 ..."Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"The answer that the Apostle Paul and Silas gave should settle this matter unless Matt is wiser than the Holy Spirit. Here is the answer:
They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will saved, you and your household."12]This should make the answer to this question a no-brainer for Matt if he is consistent with his above statement. Furthermore, for good measure here is another witness, the Lord Jesus Christ, to the same truth:
John 5:24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.Jesus emphasizes the importance and truthfulness of what he is about to say by prefixing His statement with the words, Truly, truly. Of course Matt must downplay the very truth that Jesus is emphasizing to make his theology fit together. Matt displays this hermeneutic approach in his opening when he says the following about the passage above:
After Jesus speaks of the necessity of believing (Jn 5:24) he says a few verses later, in contradiction to faith alone theology: 28Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29and come forth, THOSE WHO HAVE DONE GOOD, TO THE RESURRECTION OF LIFE, and THOSE WHO HAVE DONE EVIL, TO THE RESURRECTION OF JUDGMENT.13]First of all, he downplays the force of the verse by saying Jesus is only speaking of the necessity of believing. Hopefully, any semi-unbiased person can see Jesus is saying a lot more than my opponent wants to admit. More than saying believing is necessary, Jesus says anyone who believes has eternal life. This sounds more like the sufficiency of believing for attaining eternal life. Furthermore, Jesus underscores this point by saying the individual that believes does not come into judgment. By this He means the individual will not be condemned. This is no different than what the Apostle Paul says:
Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ JesusSecondly, Matt runs to another verse as if that changes what Jesus previously said and to think he warns me not to do such a thing. If Matt's theology cannot support both verses than he should change his theology and not try to change the meaning of Jesus words, especially when Jesus is emphasizing the point my opponent is trying to downplay. This should be a very uncomfortable position for my opponent.
14]In paragraph 8 Matt quotes James 2:20-24 and continues with his "I win, Ronnie loses" apologetics. If James 2:20-24 were isolated from the rest of Scripture than Matt may have a point, however as we all know each verse must be interpreted in the context of the immediate verses, the chapter, the book, and the entire Scriptures. It is this kind of exegesis that shows Matt celebration is a bit premature.
15]First of all, James starts his letter off talking about saving faith which goes through trials and produces endurance, which makes the believer complete and lacking in nothing(1:2-4). This is James understanding of saving faith contra the caricature of saving faith that he will refute in the passages Matt quoted. James makes it clear he is not talking about saving faith when he poses the question, "... Can that faith save him?"(2:14). This question presupposes that the right kind of faith could save him. James gives further evidence that he is dealing with a counterfeit of saving faith by the following statements:
Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.(2:17)16]Of course the previous quotes shows that this is not the same kind of faith that James mentions at the beginning of his letter. Therefore, James is in agreement with the rest of the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul states that the only thing that counts is "... faith working through love"(Gal.5:6). This faith that saves is a gift of God(Eph.2:8-9;2Cor.4:6). It is therefore ludicrous to believe that the almighty God who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist(Rom 4:17) would be the giver of such a lifeless faith. The God given faith does not need works added to it to become complete, instead it reaches it intended goal because of the works that flow from it. These works are not properly speaking our works, but God working in us "both to will and work for His good pleasure"(Phil.2:13). Therefore, when James speaks of Abraham being justified by works and not by faith alone(2:24), who would not agree recognizing his emphasis is on how one lives out the Christian life. The justification that James speaks of is the final judgment where God's salvation righteousness will be vindicated for all to see. Those whom God has justified will vindicate God's judgment by their righteous lives. It is in this judgment that every mouth will be shut, because not only does God graciously declare us as righteous based on faith in Christ alone, but he also makes us righteous. I will discuss this judgment in the lives of believers in further detail when responding to Matt's remarks on judgment at the eschaton. However, we should notice that James does not speak of justification as process, but instead as a completed and definitive act. Matt still hasn't given any proof of a justification as a durative process.
...faith without works is useless.(2:20)
...faith without works is dead.(2:26)
17]Since it is clear that James(Paul also in Rom. 3:8;6:1;6:15) goes to great length to refute this false idea of saving faith. The question that should come to ones mind is how did this misunderstanding of saving faith become popular in the Apostolic Gospel? I submit that the reason is because the Gospel contains the message that we are justified by faith alone. One thing we can be certain of is that this misunderstanding would not come from what Matt is expounding. The foundation of his justification is based on doing good works while in a state of grace. To not do those good works or to do bad works causes one to be disinherited. Therefore, if this is the Apostolic message how would someone come to such a diametrically opposed view of salvation by mental assent? However, this corruption of saving faith is understandable if the Apostles were teaching that the ungodly are saved by faith in the risen Christ, without works. Even Paul's question and reply in Romans 6:1-4 reveals his message is not the same as the one Matt is presenting. In Romans 6:1 the question is asked, "...Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?" This question would be never be asked if Matt's message is being preached and Paul's reply does not fit Matt's theology either.
Romans 6:2-3 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?Paul should have explained the lost of inheritance and God's wrath coming against a believer who lived such a way? Instead, Paul stresses the impossibility of such a claim, because of who the Christian is and what has taken place in the Christian life. REBUTTAL: "JUDGMENT BY WORKS"
18]I acknowledge that Scriptures often speak of the eschaton judgment being based on what a person has done in this life. However, hopefully Matt will also acknowledge that the Scriptures often speak of believers being fully justified, currently a possessor of eternal life, exonerated from any condemnation, and currently partaking in the privileges and benefits of the age that is to come after the eschaton judgment. The challenge for Matt and I is to explain this in a biblically consistent way without downplaying any of the passages.
Here is the problem and inconsistency with Matt's interpretation. He affirms that believers are currently, completely, and definitely the adopted children of God. However, if we look at Romans 8:23 we notice the following statement:
Romans 8:23 ... having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.19]Now if Matt is to remain consistent with his hermeneutic he should say there is an initial adoption and a final adoption. Maybe he should say adoption is a process that we must grow in and increase until the eschaton judgment. However, his theology teaches that adoption is definitive and final, even though there is this reference to adoption based on the eschaton judgment. I affirmed that our adoption has already taken place, yet we will be adopted after the eschaton judgment, which means we will possess all the benefits of Sons(i.e. glorified bodies, perfect holiness). The current adoption that we possessed is definitive and complete, even though the adoption in the future will be much better. In a likewise manner this is how we should interpret justification. The believers justification is complete and definitive now:
Luke 18:14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; ...
Rom 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith ...
Rom 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture also speak the same way in reference to our judgment. It speaks of believers having already been judged or never coming into the judgment, because they have been judged already:
John 3:18 He who believes in Him is not judged, he who does not believe has been judged already ...
John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment ...
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
Finally, Scripture speaks of the gift of eternal life in the same way:
John 3:36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life ...
John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life ...
John 6:54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life ...
20]My point in the above is to show that this is a consistent approach used in the Scriptures. The tension of the "already and not yet" of the age to come is crucial to understanding our justification. Therefore, the believer has justification now and yet they will be justified at the eschaton judgment. However, this justification is not only a justification of the believer, but it is a justification of God and His righteous judgment. Now you may wonder how this is possible. It is possible, because Jesus Christ in His incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension has ushered the eschaton judgment and the age to come into the now. Now having this background I will respond to a few of Matt's Scripture quotes.
In reference to Matt. 25:31-46 Matt makes the following comments:
Those who were condemned, ignored those who were hungry and the grounds for their condemnation is their lack of good works. Any view that says Faith Alone is the grounds for one's justification explicitly contradicts our Lord's very words in Matthew 25:31-46. No imputed righteousness even hinted at here. Why not?21]Matt seems to think quoting a verse that speaks of judgment according to works refute justification by faith alone. What logical reason leads Matt to the conclusion that they both cannot be true? He even states any view that says Faith Alone contradicts our Lord, but Jesus himself said the very same thing in John 5:24 as I have pointed out. Also as I have stated above those who are justified by faith, will also become truly righteous. God is therefore vindicated at the final judgment and He justifies the believer before the entire world. In paragraph 17 Matt quotes Mt. 16:27 which speaks of the father repaying everyone for what they have done. This is the same false assumption as above. Matt assumes a judgment scene somehow contradicts justification by faith alone at the last day. He continues in this way for the remainder of the section.