Volume 1, Number 5, Special Edition
Faith and the
New Religious Boundary Lines: Editorial
Subjectivism and the Everlasting Gospel
Justification by Faith and the Baptism of the Spirit
Questionnaire – The Great Issues of the Reformation
The Great Issues of the Reformation
Protestant Revivalism, Pentecostalism, and the Drift
Back to Rome
By Blood and by Water
When the armies of Napoleon began to overrun the
historic European boundaries, William Pitt stood up in the
British parliament and cried, "Roll up the map of Europe.
It will not be wanted for ten years."
The charismatic movement is on an unprecedented
rampage through the churches of the United States. It is
crossing all denominational boundary lines, even blurring
the distinction between Catholic and Protestant. Roll up the
historical denominational distinctions. There is going to be
a regrouping along new religious boundary lines.
The charismatic movement (which embraces
Pentecostalism, neo-Pentecostalism, the Jesus movement
and most American revivalism) is not a passing fad. The
editors and publishers of this magazine believe that it is a
definite fulfillment of Bible prophecy (Rev. 13:13, 14);
and, without rashness or rancor, we must candidly state our
convictions that it is destined to sweep the whole world
into the delusive frenzy of an anti-gospel religious
We also want to make clear our position that many
good Christian people are involved in different phases of
the charismatic movement. They do not see that it is
leading back to the religious philosophy of the medieval
church and the Dark Ages, or that it is absolutely inimical
to every eternal principle of the Protestant Reformation.
We hope that many of these sincere people will read this
magazine. To them we make the appeal, "Come, let us
reason together." No one can confront the realities of the
everlasting gospel and remain a part of the modern
Churches and religious leaders are deeply divided
over the Pentecostal issue. In the last two months, this
editor has received volumes of mail from Protestant
ministers. Some Lutheran ministers are ashamed of their
Protestant heritage, and they feel that the charismatic
movement is the true Reformation in contrast to the one of
the sixteenth century. Other Lutheran ministers are
enthusiastically behind our efforts to restore the primacy,
supremacy and all-sufficiency of the Reformation doctrine
of righteousness by faith. Some Methodist clergymen are
wholly for ecumenism, for the charismatic movement and
for burying the great religious issues of the past, while
other Methodist ministers praise God for a voice to uphold
the objective gospel. And there are Baptists for and
Baptists against the charismatic movement. We agree with
one minister who wrote to us, exclaiming, "American
Protestantism is drowning in a sea of religious
Many descendants of the Reformation now feel
guilty about the use of the word Protestant. It has become
a dirty word. Was Paul Tillich right when, about twenty
years ago, he observed that the Protestant era had come to
an end? During the summer of 1972, while in the U.S., we
made out a simple five-point questionnaire which dealt
with the most basic issues between the medieval church
and the Reformation. Sample pollings showed that
ninety-five per cent of the "Jesus People" were decidedly
medieval and anti-Reformation in their thinking. And
among churchgoing Protestants the ratings were nearly as
We could not state the situation better than the words
of a Lutheran pastor who wrote to us, saying, "I believe
that the last times are marked by the opportunity to hear the
Word as never before, paralleled by the deception of Satan
which causes men, in the clear light of noonday, to be more
blind, stupid and unbelieving than ever before."
In this special issue of Present Truth, we have
documented the material presented in seminar by this
editor. We trust that the written presentation will bring
forth the same earnest and enthusiastic response that was
given the oral presentations.
– This editorial was written by the former editor and
appears in Present Truth Vol. 1, #5.
Subjectivism and the
"And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said
unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard Thy
voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was
naked; and I hid myself." Gen. 3:9, 10.
This brief dialogue illustrates the stark contrast
between the character of God and the character of the
natural man. God is concerned for man. Man is concerned
only for himself. Through sin he has become the wretched
victim of subjectivism.
The worst form of subjectivism is religious
subjectivism. Man is a sinner precisely because his own
experience is the center of his concern; but how much
worse when this tendency is stimulated and "sanctified" by
religion. A few weeks ago, while on the campus of the
University of California at Berkeley, I saw a poster
advertising an Eastern religion. The caption read:
"You go in and in and in,
And then you go in and in and in,
And after that you go in and in and in and in."
Eastern religions are not the only ones that "go in
and in and in." Subjectivism is the common denominator of
all false religions. Instead of curing the sin problem, they
make men prisoners within themselves many times more
The Objective Nature of the Gospel
God's cure for subjectivism is the gospel of Jesus
Christ. Says the apostle Paul:
"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I
preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye
stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I
preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered
unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died
for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and
that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." 1 Cor.
The Christian religion is unique in that it is the only
historical religion; i.e., it proclaims a salvation that is based
on concrete historical events: the life, death and
resurrection of Christ. It is not centered in the worshiper's
own experience but in the saving acts of God in Christ –
historical acts that were accomplished outside, above and
beyond the sinner's own life. The gospel message is
therefore an objective reality.
Paul's statement of the gospel is all the more
remarkable when we consider it in the context of his first
letter to the Corinthians. The church at Corinth had become
confused about spiritual gifts. Ecstatic religious
demonstrations and marvelous experiences were thought to
be the proof of the higher Christian life. In chapters 12 to
14 Paul uses a variety of arguments to point out the fallacy
of this "charismatic" distortion. But his crowning argument
is in chapter 15. He calls the Corinthians back to reconsider
the gospel. They were in danger of apostasy (2 Cor. 11:3,
Paul's definition of the gospel seems to be startlingly
simplistic: Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose
again the third day. This statement of the gospel makes no
reference to religious experience at all. The Corinthians
were already far too preoccupied with their "marvelous"
religious experiences. Paul seems to be saying to them,
"You who are making your boast in your high and mighty
experiences are forgetting the gospel which brings you
salvation. None of your charismatic experiences are able to
save you or recommend you to God's favor."
The human tendency is to forget the objective gospel
and gravitate back to subjectivism. The heretic says, "Who
doesn't know that Jesus died and rose again? We can't be
forever talking about this. We must rise higher." Failing to
see the glory of the mystery of Christ, he does not see that
there is no truth or experience higher than the revelation of
Christ's Victory Is Our Victory
Christ's death, burial and resurrection need to be
considered in the light of His position as the second Adam.
"For since by man came death, by man came also the
resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ
shall all be made alive." 1 Cor. 15:21, 22.
"Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all
men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of One the free
gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's
disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One
shall many be made righteous." Rom. 5:18, 19.
Adam was the first head of the human race. Because
the whole human race was incorporated in him, he stood
before God as if he were every man. When he sinned, the
whole race of men became sinners in the sight of God.
When he fell, all fell in him. We did not become sinners
because of something we did or experienced but by
something that happened completely outside of us in the
person of Adam, i.e., by an historical, objective event.
God did not redeem us by doing something within
our experience. While we were dead in trespasses and sins,
He gave us another Father (Isa. 9:6), a new Head, a second
Adam. Christ now stood before the bar of eternal justice as
the representative Man; for by His Incarnation, humanity
was incorporated in Him as it was in Adam. He stood
before God as if He were every man. When He lived,
humanity lived in Him; when He was punished, humanity
was punished in Him; when He died, humanity died in
Him; and when He rose again, humanity was restored to
God's favor in Him. All that a father does and acquires
belongs to the children. As Luther declared in a sermon
preached in 1519, "Therefore a man can with confidence
boast in Christ and say: 'Mine are Christ's living, doing,
and speaking, His suffering and dying; mine as much as if
I had lived, done, spoken, and suffered, and died as He
did.'" – Luther's Works (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press,
1957), Vol. XXXI, p. 297.
"...the free gift came upon all men unto justification
of life." Rom. 5:18. God's act of liberation in Christ
includes all, even as Adam's fall includes all. In Christ,
God has provided forgiveness for the race and reconciled
the world unto Himself (Rom. 5:10). "...if One died for all,
then were all dead." 2 Cor. 5:14. As Karl Barth has well
said, "There is not one for whose sin and death He did not
die, whose sin and death He did not obliterate on the cross,
for whom He did not positively do the right, whose right
He has not established. There is not one to whom this was
not addressed as his justification in His resurrection from
the dead. There is not one whose man He is not, who is not
justified in Him." – Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics
(Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1936), Vol. IV, Bk. 1, p. 630.
A football fan goes to see a superbowl game. As he
sits watching from the bleachers, his favorite star gets the
ball and makes a spectacular touchdown. His team wins.
The fan rises. from his seat, throws his hat into the air with
ecstasy and cries, "We have won!" He does not hesitate to
say "we" even though the whole game was won without
any effort on his part. If people can become so excited over
the exploits of a few men running around with a bit of pig
skin, what profound joy should animate their hearts as they
consider the greatest contest of all eternity! Christ, the Son
of the eternal God, came to earth to take our very place in
the arena of life and death. In our name and on our behalf
He ran to the finish line to win for us an eternal victory. "It
is finished!" he cried. By His death He destroyed sin – our
sin (Heb. 1:3), crucified our old sinful nature (Rom. 6:6),
defeated Satan – our foe (John 16:11; Heb. 2:14), abolished
death (2 Tim. 1:10), perfected His people forever (Heb.
10:14) and brought in everlasting righteousness (Dan.
9:24). There is no more need to serve sin, obey our sinful
nature, do Satan's bidding or fear death. Looking to Christ's
substitutionary work, we can triumphantly cry, "We have
Picture a raging stream that we are required to cross
in order to be saved. Treacherous rapids beat on murderous
rocks and defy any hope of our swimming across. Then
comes a mighty athlete who takes our cause upon himself.
He plunges in and strikes across for the other shore. At
times it seems that he must surely perish in the boiling,
rocky stream. Finally he struggles up yonder bank and
raises his arm in a salute of victory. Now Christ is not such
a One who stands on the other side and cries, "I showed
you how to do it. Now plunge in and do as I have done."
When He crossed that river of death and destruction, we
were in Him, and He carried humanity across in Himself.
We triumphed in Him. That is the gospel.
The gospel is about Christ (Rom. 1:3) – about His
doing and dying, and about God's awesome act of
redemption in Him. This historical, objective event is our
salvation and the science and song of the unfallen worlds.
Any human experience, other than Christ's experience for
us, is very small by comparison and should never be the
focal point of our concern, much less of our Christian
witness. No wonder Paul declared to the
experience-centered charismatics at Corinth, "I determined
not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and
Him crucified." 1 Cor. 2:2.
The Work of the Holy Spirit
Says one, "I know that the gospel is about what
Christ did for me. But what about the Holy Spirit? The full
gospel is the good news of what God does in me." Instead
of leading men to bask in the light of the gospel, this "full
gospel" leads multitudes to wallow and drown in a sea of
Jesus said, "When He, the Spirit of truth, is come...
He shall not speak of Himself... He shall glorify Me: for He
shall receive of Mine, and shew it unto you." John 16:13,
These comments by Victor Matthews are worthy of
"'He shall not speak of Himself...' This means that the Holy
Spirit will not draw attention to Himself. This profound statement,
expressed so simply, indicates that the entire ministry of the Spirit is
away from Himself. All endeavors, whether by the individual
Christian or by a church or denomination, to place the Holy Spirit at
the center of their attention and instruction is, therefore, under divine
censure." – Victor Matthews, Growth in Grace (Grand Rapids, Mich.:
Zondervan Publishing House, 1970), pp.99, 100.
The Holy Spirit does not speak of Himself. Neither
will anyone who is filled with the Spirit. Many times we
have had people stand up in our forums and declare
something like this: "I am a Spirit-filled believer. Now let
me tell you about my experience..." They want to tell what
it feels like to receive the Holy Spirit. Others write in detail
about how the Spirit gives them marvelous religious
sensations, as one clergyman said, "right down to the balls
of my feet." But can we imagine Peter standing up on the
Day of Pentecost, proclaiming, "Men and brethren, I have
just received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and I want to
tell you how wonderful it is. When it came upon me, it was
like being thrilled with a vital electric current. I felt such a
beautiful love and peace thrill through my whole body,
right down to the balls of my feet..." On the contrary, Peter
made no reference to himself or to his feelings. His
message was Jesus Christ and Him crucified: "Ye men of
Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a Man
approved of God..." Acts 2:22.
"He shall not speak of Himself." The great
affirmation of the apostles was the gospel – God's act of
redemption in Jesus Christ. They did not turn the world
upside down by telling people about their own exciting
experiences in the Spirit. (Pride is never so high as when it
has a startling experience to relate, especially a religious
experience!) The record says, "With great power gave the
apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and
great grace was upon them all." Acts 4:33. In his
Corinthian letters, Paul shows how repugnant it was to him
to parade his experiences as the charismatic "apostles" did
(see 2 Cor. 11).
"He shall glorify Me." The Holy Spirit's work is to
make men Christ-conscious. He never causes men to focus
on their own subjective experiences but leads sinners out
of themselves to behold what God has done outside of
themselves in the person of Jesus Christ. In this the Spirit's
work is objective.
We have seen that the work of reconciliation has
been done for all men. Christ was born, died and has risen
for the sake of all. God's act of liberation in Jesus has been
effected for all, and, as many as are found in Him, are
justified (Rom. 5:18). However, all men have not as yet
heard, received and possessed their possessions in Christ.
Here is the Spirit's work. Without the work of the third
Person of the Godhead, the sacrifice of Christ would be of
no avail. Men must hear the gospel of what Christ has
done, and they must be persuaded to believe and accept
God's gracious provision in His Son. This is the Spirit's
work. He comes to create faith by the preaching of the
gospel. "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world,
but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the
things that are freely given to us of God." 1 Cor. 2:12.
Faith is not self-generated. Calvin expressed the
view of all the Reformers when he said,"...faith is the
principal work of the Holy Spirit." Again he says, "We
have said that perfect salvation is found in the person of
Christ. Accordingly, that we may become partakers of it,
'He baptizes us in the Holy Spirit and fire' [Luke 3:16],
bringing us into the light of faith in His gospel..." – John
Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, (Philadelphia:
the Westminster Press, 1960), Bk. III, pp. 541, 542.
Salvation has been freely provided for all in Jesus.
The Spirit works to draw all men unto Christ that they may
be saved by faith. As Luther said, there is no reason why
men should not believe the gospel. But in their resistance
to the Spirit, men call God a liar and bring condemnation
on their own heads (John 3:36; 1 John 5:10). The
unpardonable sin is to believe not. If any reason could be
given for it, it would not be unpardonable. We cannot
explain it because it is "the mystery of iniquity."
Faith Is Objective
We are called to be heirs of the righteousness which
is of faith (Rom. 1:17; 4:13; Heb. 11:7). Faith – not
feelings, euphoria, ecstasy or demonstrative spiritual
exercises – is the principal work of the Spirit. Feelings,
rapture and extraordinary spiritual manifestations are
subjective. The Christian is not saved by them nor can he
live in security before God by these things. But faith is
objective. It is always "faith to God-ward" (1 Thess. 1:8).
It is the eye of the soul. Like the eye, it cannot see itself. It
looks to the glory of the person of Christ and appropriates
His merit for the needy soul. There is no saving virtue in
faith itself but in the object of faith – Christ Himself. Just
as the football fan identifies himself with his favorite team
and cries, "We have won!" so by faith the soul identifies
with Christ and says, "When Christ lived, I lived in Him;
when He died, I died in Him; and when He arose, I arose in
Him. 'Mine are Christ's living, doing, and speaking, His
suffering and dying; mine as much as if I had lived, done,
spoken, and suffered, and died as he did'" (see Luther's
Works, loc. cit.).
Again we say, Faith is objective, for it glories alone
in Christ's doing and dying. Although it is rooted in the
heart, it rests upon something which is completely outside
the heart. It is the eye of the soul that beholds the glory of
Christ. And faith is the Spirit's work. When religious
people are devoid of the "Spirit of faith," they try to find
some confirmation and security in tangible demonstration;
hence the temptation to put God to the test in the appeal for
Now faith, being a gift of God through the Spirit,
becomes a living, busy, active principle in the life. As Paul
explained to the Galatians, faith works by love (Gal. 5:6).
Love is also objective. It "seeketh not her own" (1 Cor.
13:5). Self is not the center of its concern. It is
self-forgetful, for faith has released the soul from the
intolerable burden of looking for salvation within its own
experience. Through Isaiah, God rebukes subjective
religiosity and calls men to serve Him by unselfish service
for others, feeling or no feeling:
"Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of
wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go
free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the
hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?
when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not
thyself from thine own flesh?" Isa. 58:6, 7.
Love is obedient.
Bible obedience is not a matter of
following uncertain voices within our own hearts,
confounding human impulse with the movings of the Holy
Spirit. The Holy Spirit teaches believers to obey God by
conforming the life to the objective Word and law of God
as the unerring, absolute standard of right and wrong.
A popular religious song proclaims:
"He lives, He lives...
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart."
At best, that is a very subjective criterion for truth. Karl
Barth was once asked what was the most profound thought
he had discovered in a lifetime of study. He replied:
"Jesus loves me! this I know,
For the Bible tells me so...."
That old song for children proclaims a theology infinitely
better than that of the other because its criterion of truth is
The gospel of Christ is objective, for it points the
sinner (a victim of subjectivism) to something which is
completely outside of his own experience. The Holy Spirit
comes to cause him to make the experience of Christ the
foundation of his hope and crown of his rejoicing. By
beholding the glory of Christ through the revelation of the
Spirit, he is brought out of himself to live in Jesus Christ.
His life has a new center. He is delivered from the prison
of subjectivism. This is what Paul means when he says,
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:
old things are passed away; behold, all things are become
new." 2 Cor. 5:17.
– This article was written by the former editor and appears
in Present Truth Vol. 1, #5.
Justification by Faith
Baptism of the Spirit
When we consider the message of Saint Paul, one
word stands out – justification. His letter to the Romans is
the great beacon light on the doctrine of justification.
The words justify and justification are legal words,
closely related to the idea of a court trial and judgment.
Justification with God implies that one has stood before the
divine court and has been declared just, or righteous.
Being a legal word, justification is also closely
related to law. The divine court has a holy, just and good
law (Rom. 7:12) which must be reckoned with in the matter
of justification. At the outset of his epistle, the apostle
declares, "...the doers of the law shall be justified." Rom.
2:13. The law demands perfect obedience, and unless this
demand is met, no man will ever be justified.
The human predicament, however, is that absolutely
no man can render an obedience that will satisfy the law.
"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be
justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of
sin." Rom. 3:20. Let a man climb the alpine heights of holy
living, and the law will say, "Not good enough." A man
might just as well reach up and touch the stars as satisfy the
law with his obedience. Not only is it true that "all have
sinned," but all "continue to come short
of the glory of
God" (Rom. 3:23).
Thus does Paul use the law to level all men and
show that a man has to look outside of his own experience
Three Objective Aspects of Justification
The justification of sinners is the work of the Triune
God (Rom. 8:33). As there are three Persons in the Deity,
so there are three aspects to God's way of declaring men
righteous. It is said to be:
by grace – (the Father),
by Christ – (the Son),
by faith – (the Spirit).
"Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption
that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation
through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the
remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God." Rom.
By Grace. Grace in this context is not a quality
infused into man but is simply God's attitude of favor and
mercy toward undeserving sinners. Justifying grace is
qualified by the word freely, which is elsewhere translated
"without a cause." Grace therefore is unearned and
unmerited. The sinner must not look for it in his own heart
but only in the heart of God. Grace means to be accepted in
spite of being unacceptable.
By Christ. Justification is said to be "by Christ"
(Gal. 2:17), or "by the obedience of One" (Rom. 5:19). We
have seen that the law demands perfect obedience. This the
sinner owes to the law, but he is incapable of rendering it.
Christ became the sinner's Substitute. By His doing and
dying He satisfied the demands of a righteous law in the
sinner's name. Salvation comes through perfect obedience
to the law of Jehovah – not ours but His. Men are saved by
good works – not theirs but His.
Justification by Christ means that we are accepted
before God by means of a substitute life. We are accounted
righteous because Jesus is righteous. We are pleasing in the
sight of a holy God because Jesus is pleasing.
By Faith. Faith is given to the sinner by the mighty
working of the third Person of the Godhead. When the
gospel is proclaimed, the Spirit persuades the sinner that it
is true, and creates in his heart both the desire and the
willingness to accept the salvation which is in Jesus.
There is no saving merit in faith, but faith brings to
God the obedience of Jesus Christ, and the Lord places the
obedience of His Son to the sinner's account. This is how
faith is counted (reckoned, or imputed) as righteousness
(see Rom. 4:5, 6, 9, 10, 21-25).
Justification with God comes by an imputed
righteousness. The word impute is very different from the
word infuse. Imputed righteousness means that this
righteousness is outside of the believer, in the person of
Jesus Christ. It is, as Luther said, an alien, foreign and
extrinsic righteousness. It is not on earth but in heaven.
Justification therefore is God's verdict of righteousness
upon the fallen sinner for the sake of Christ in whom the
sinner believes. It is a work that God does for man, and
must not be confused with what He does within man. As
John Bunyan said, "That man will be at a loss that looketh
for a righteousness in himself, when it is to be found
nowhere but in Jesus Christ." "Indeed this is one of the
greatest mysteries in the world – namely, that a
righteousness that resides with a person in heaven should
justify me, a sinner, on earth." – John Bunyan, Justification
by an Imputed Righteousness (Swengel, Penn.: Reiner
Thus, the grace which justifies is outside of us, the
doing and dying of Christ which justifies us is outside of
us, and the righteousness of faith which justifies is outside
of us. There is no room for subjectivism in Paul's doctrine
of justification by faith.
The All-Sufficiency of God's Justification
The life which Jesus lived for us and in our name
was equal to the broadest demands of an infinite law. In
Him was "all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9)
– a life of infinite perfection, a life superior to sinless
Adam or highest angel. Christ's righteousness was the very
righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21), and all this and nothing
less than this is imputed to the believing sinner. The
"righteousness of God" Himself (Rom. 3:21, 22), in all its
infinite plenitude and immeasurable totality, is ascribed to
the believer in Jesus. God does not impute His
righteousness in degrees but gives it all – all the
accumulated wealth of eternity, all the virtue of Jesus
Christ. The gift of justification is an exceeding and eternal
weight of glory. It cannot be infused into mortal man; it
cannot be reduced to an intra-human experience. But this
unspeakable inheritance is put to the believer's credit in the
bank of heaven. In the sight of God and in the verdict of
the supreme Judge of the universe, the believing sinner is
righteous – as righteous as Jesus Himself. He is faultless,
blameless and perfect (Col. 1:20-22; 2:10; Heb. 10:14). He
stands as one who has perfectly fulfilled the law of God
and as one who is in harmony with all its righteous
precepts (Rom. 10:4).
God is not playing make-believe in this matter of
imputed righteousness. Christ took humanity unto Himself.
The believer's real life is in Christ (Col. 3:3, 4), and that
life is pure and sinless – indeed, it is the very righteousness
of God (2 Cor. 5:21). Furthermore, faith unites the sinner
to Jesus. By faith he is "married to Another, even to Him
who is raised from the dead" (Rom. 7:4). As Luther said in
one of his great passages:
"Faith... unites the soul with Christ, like a bride with the
bridegroom, and from this marriage, Christ and the soul become one
body, as St. Paul says (Eph. 5:30). Then the possessions of both are
in common, whether fortune, misfortune, or anything else; so that
what Christ has, also belongs to the believing soul, and what the soul
has, will belong to Christ. If Christ has all good things, including
blessedness, these will also belong to the soul. If the soul is full of
trespasses and sins, these will belong to Christ. At this point a contest
of happy exchanges takes place. Because Christ is God and man, and
has never sinned, and because His sanctity is unconquerable, eternal,
and almighty, He takes possession of the sins of the believing soul by
virtue of her wedding ring, namely faith, and acts just as if He had
committed those sins Himself. They are, of course, swallowed up and
drowned in Him, for His unconquerable righteousness is stronger than
any sin whatever. Thus the soul is cleansed from all her sins by virtue
of her dowry, i.e., for the sake of her faith. She is made free and
unfettered, and endowed with the eternal righteousness of Christ, her
bridegroom. Is not that a happy household, when Christ, the rich,
noble, and good bridegroom, takes the poor, despised, wicked little
harlot in marriage, sets her free from all evil, and decks her with all
good things? It is not possible for her sins to damn her, for now they
rest on Christ and are swallowed up in Him. In this way she has such
a rich righteousness in her bridegroom that she can always withstand
sins, though they indeed lie in wait for her." – B. L. Woolf,
Reformation Writings of Martin Luther (London: Lutherworth Press,
1952), Vol. I, pp.363, 364.
This beautifully illustrates how the sinner may be
righteous through faith; and whoever has this faith is
righteous – fully and completely. He is ready for anything
– life, death, judgment, Christ's coming, the day of wrath,
"Therefore being justified by faith, we... rejoice in hope of the
glory of God [i.e., the coming of Christ]." Rom. 5:1, 2.
"...being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from
wrath through Him." Rom. 5:9. (When "the great day of His wrath is
come," "who shall be able to stand?" [Rev. 6:17]. Those who are
"Whom He justified, them He also glorified." Rom. 8:30.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Having viewed the greatness and all-sufficiency of
God's act of justifying the sinner, we should be ready to
answer the question, "Does God's verdict of righteousness
upon the fallen sinner qualify him to receive the baptism,
or infilling, of the Holy Spirit?" Of course! The justified
sinner stands before God, not only as if he had never
sinned, but as righteous as Jesus Himself. Is not Jesus
righteous enough to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost?
And we may ask, If God's act of justification does not
qualify the believer to receive the infilling of the Spirit,
what else will?
The doctrine of Paul is that the Holy Spirit fills every
soul who is justified by faith, and fills that soul
immediately upon his justification:
"Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our
Lord Jesus Christ... the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by
the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." Rom. 5:1, 5.
To the Galatians Paul declared:
"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law.... that the
blessing of Abraham [justification] might come on the Gentiles
through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit
through faith." Gal. 3:13, 14.
Faith in the gospel not only justifies but brings to the
justified believer the measureless gift of the Holy Spirit as
soon as he believes. Paul challenged the Galatians,
"Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the
hearing of faith?" Gal. 3:2. And to the Ephesians he
wrote,"...after that ye believed [or literally, having
believed), ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of
promise..." Eph. 1:13. This agrees with the words of Jesus,
"He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of
his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake
He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should
receive...) John 7:38, 39.
In the book of Romans Paul deals very specially with
two gifts: the gift of righteousness (Rom. 5:17) and the gift
of the Spirit (Rom. 5:5; Rom. 8). The gift of righteousness
is imputed for our justification; the gift of the Spirit is
imparted (infused) for our renewal and sanctification.
The imputed gift of righteousness and the imparted
gift of the Spirit must not be confused but must be properly
distinguished. Justification is what God does for us; the
infilling of the Spirit is what He does in us. Our renewal in
the Spirit is not the cause of our justification in whole or in
part. Justification is by imputed righteousness alone – that
is, it rests on something completely without us. Renewal
and sanctification of the Spirit are the fruit of justification
(see Rom. 5:1-5).
While we must be careful not to confuse God's work
for us (justification) and God's work in us (the infilling of
the Spirit), we must be equally careful not to divorce one
phase of His work from the other. His work for us
(justification) brings the gift and infilling of the Spirit.
Indeed, this gift of the Spirit is the seal, pledge and
guarantee that we have been justified (Eph. 1:13, 14; Rom.
8:14-16). Consequently, where there is no renewal by the
transforming power of the Spirit, no fruit of the Spirit, it is
certain that justification has never taken place.
The Gift of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts
The book of Acts amply illustrates what Paul teaches
– namely, that the acceptance of Christ for our justification
brings the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The book of Acts begins with Jesus' command to His
apostles and small band of followers:
"...and, being assembled together with them, commanded
them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the
promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of Me. For John
truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy
Ghost not many days hence." Acts 1:4, 5.
Jesus commanded His disciples to "wait" for the
baptism of the Spirit. Waiting is hardly the posture of
heroes, but it does accentuate the truth that the Spirit is
given, not obtained. Jesus did not say, "Pray for the
promise of the Father." Doubtless the disciples did pray,
but the accent is on waiting, because the Spirit, being a
promise and a gift, does not come upon men as a result of
Then the next chapter of Acts continues:
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they
all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound
from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house
where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven
tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all
filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as
the Spirit gave them utterance." Acts 2:1-4.
If Luke wanted to emphasize that prayer or some
other activity brought down the Holy Spirit, he missed a
wonderful opportunity. The scripture does not say that the
120 were praying when the Spirit fell, but that "they were
sitting." There appears to be a definite effort to play down
any great activity on the part of the disciples in connection
with the baptism of the Spirit.
The crowd gathered, and finally Peter stood up to
preach that great Pentecostal message. In explaining the
gift of the Holy Spirit, he did not say, "This Spirit has been
poured out upon us because we have waited for it, and for
many days we have prayed earnestly for it." Never! Peter
made no reference to his activities. Here is what he said:
"This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having
received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed
forth this, which ye now see and hear." Acts 2:32, 33.
The Spirit was given because of Christ's atonement,
not the believer's attainment. He destroyed sin, conquered
death and removed every barrier that kept the Holy Spirit
from His people. He was glorified in the presence of God,
exalted far above principalities and powers with glory
impossible to describe. But in His exaltation He could not
forget His toiling, struggling ones on earth. He longed to
share His glory with those who believed on Him. Pentecost
was Christ sharing His glory – all that mortal beings could
endure – with His disciples. It was a gift, the fulfillment of
a promise, and came upon the fledgling church solely
because Jesus was glorified.
At Pentecost the gospel was preached under the
demonstration and power of the Spirit. Like arrows from
the Almighty, the truth went home to the hearts of the
hearers. They cried out, "Men and brethren, what shall we
"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every
one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and
ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost... Then they that gladly
received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added
unto them about three thousand souls." Acts 2:38, 41.
Now it is imperative that we understand how the
3,000 souls received the Holy Spirit. They were not told
to wait. The disciples had waited. But after Pentecost there
is no command or suggestion that believers should wait for
the Spirit. The Spirit had come upon the church in a
once-and-for-all event. Peter did not tell his hearers, "First
you be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. After that you
must wait for the Spirit like we did." No! Since Pentecost,
the message of the gospel is believe and receive. All who
believe receive the Spirit.
Not only did the 3,000 have no need to wait, but
there is no suggestion that the Spirit came upon them with
a sound of wind, appearance of fire, and speaking in
The great inaugural events of
redemption – Christ's death, resurrection, ascension and
glorification (Pentecost) – were attested to by great signs
and wonders. At His death the sun was darkened, at His
resurrection there was an earthquake, angels appeared to
the disciples at His ascension, and wind, fire and tongues
were associated with His glorification and the Spirit's
initial outpouring upon the church. Men are now called
upon to identify and participate in the benefits of Christ's
death, resurrection, ascension and glorification. It would be
as wrong to demand wind, fire and foreign languages to
accompany the gift of the Spirit today, as to expect to see
the sun darkened when we experience dying with Christ, or
an earthquake when we rise to walk with Him in a new life.
We are justified by faith, and by faith (not sight, sound or
feelings) we receive the Holy Spirit. Miraculous
demonstrations may or may not accompany the gift of the
Spirit. Faith does not rest on these, however, but on the
infallible Word of promise.
Acts 2:38 shows us that, since Pentecost, the Spirit
is given at the time of Christian initiation. The baptism of
the Spirit is associated with the baptism into Christ. We are
not here concerned with the mode of Christian baptism
with the principle of baptism. Baptism means that one is
identified with the death and resurrection of Christ (see
Rom. 6:3-7). Faith unites and identifies the soul with Jesus.
Those who thereby share in Christ's death and resurrection,
share in His glorification at the right hand of God. This is
why the Holy Spirit accompanies Christian baptism. The
book of Acts amply demonstrates that baptism and the gift
of the Holy Spirit belong together.
Peter preached Jesus to the Gentiles at the home of
Cornelius. He said:
"...God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and
with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were
oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him... To Him give all the
prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him
shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the
Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the Word. And they of the
circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with
Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the
Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify
God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these
should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well
as we?" Acts 10:38, 43-47.
What a clear testimony to the truth that faith in Jesus
for justification, or forgiveness of sins, brings the gift of
the Holy Spirit! This is further illustrated by Paul's visit to
"And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul
having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding
certain disciples, he said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost
since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as
heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto
what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.
Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance,
saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him which should
come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they
were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid
his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake
with tongues, and prophesied." Acts 19:1-6.
It is strange how some people will use this scripture
in support of a post-conversion baptism of the Holy Spirit,
or "second blessing." It would be more consistent if they
would use the passage to support the idea of two water
baptisms – one to become a Christian, and one more to get
the Holy Spirit. Paul's vital question, "Have ye received the
Holy Ghost since ye believed?" is not to be read as if Paul
were asking if they had gone on to receive the second
blessing. The Revised Standard Version more correctly
translates the question, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit
when you believed?" Paul is really saying, "If you did not
receive the Holy Spirit when you believed, you have not
true Christian faith." That is Paul's doctrine – the Spirit
comes when men believe in Jesus. But these disciples of
John had not shared in the blessing of Pentecost, for they
had not heard about Christ's atonement and glorification.
The information which they lacked was not information
about the Holy Spirit as such, but information on the
gospel of Christ. Paul told them about Christ, baptized
them in the name of Jesus, and they shared in the blessing
of Pentecost. Thus, the gift of the Spirit must accompany
Christian baptism, else something is very wrong.
Our Pentecostal friends will then say, "What about
Acts 8? Philip preached the gospel in Samaria. The people
believed and were baptized. But they did not receive the
Holy Spirit until the apostles came down and prayed for
"Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that
Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent unto them Peter and
John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they
might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet He was fallen upon none of
them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then
laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost."
We will admit that this is an exceptional case. But
rather than prove that the Spirit does not come at the time
of conversion, it really proves the opposite. According to
Acts 2:38, the disciples knew that the gift of the Holy
Spirit should accompany baptism. But at Samaria (their
first missionary outreach to non-Jews) it did not. This led
them to take immediate steps to remedy the abnormal
situation. That believers should be baptized without having
the gift of the Holy Spirit was unthinkable, a contradiction.
The apostles hastened down, prayed for the Samaritans,
and they also shared the blessing of Pentecost.
Why did God work this way in Samaria? When we
consider the historical situation, the reason is not difficult
to determine. The Jews and the Samaritans were
traditionally hostile to each other. They were divided
racially and religiously. The Lord did not want this
division to continue in the Christian church. If the
Samaritans had received the full blessing of the gospel
apart from the church at Jerusalem, they might have been
inclined to have a Christian church of their own. On the
other hand, the apostles were still inclined to be prejudiced
against the Samaritans. The leaders of the church needed to
see that God put no difference between the believing Jews
and the believing Samaritans. Acts 8 shows how the Spirit
worked to preserve unity in the developing church.
The idea of a post-conversion, second-blessing gift
of the Holy Spirit is unknown in the book of Acts. When
Paul preached the gospel to the heathen Galatians, they
believed and received the Spirit (Gal. 3:2). When Paul and
Barnabas returned to them, the apostles did not say, "Last
time we preached to you the gospel. Now we want to give
to you the full gospel." No, for Paul's gospel was only and
always the full gospel – the gospel of Christ. But what did
Paul tell them on his second visit?
"...confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them
to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation
enter into the kingdom of God." Acts 14:22.
There is no second blessing suggested here. As men
received Christ Jesus the Lord, so they must walk in Him
(Col. 2:6). Nowhere in the New Testament are Christians
exhorted to wait for the Holy Spirit; but through the Spirit
they are exhorted to wait, hope and expect the coming of
Jesus Christ in power and great glory (Gal. 5:5; Rom. 5:2;
8:23, 24; Heb. 9:28; 1 Thess. 1:10). The coming of Jesus
Christ and the glorification of the saints are the real second
blessing of the New Testament.
Why Modern Pentecostalism Is a Complete Negation of
the Truth of Justification
The central thesis of the Pentecostal movement is
that the baptism, or infilling, of the Spirit is a definite
second blessing which comes at a time subsequent to
conversion. This Pentecostal thesis is a complete negation
of the truth of justification by faith. This is a most serious
charge, and we realize that it comes as a great shock to
many Pentecostals who think that they believe in
justification by faith. It is true that sometimes Pentecostals
sound quite orthodox when dealing with justification; but
it is impossible to embrace the Pentecostal doctrine and
hold to the primacy, supremacy and all-sufficiency of
justification by faith, for the following reasons:
1. The Pentecostal idea of a post-conversion baptism
of the Spirit implies that God's act of justification is not
sufficient to bring the infilling of the Spirit. But if God's
gift of His own righteousness cannot qualify the believer
for the baptism of the Spirit, what else will? In the light of
Paul's message about the all-sufficiency of justification,
Pentecostalism is an awful error. If God's greatest work for
the sinner does not bring the Holy Spirit's infilling, then
man must resort to his own works – and so there are books
and papers which advocate five steps, seven steps or ten
steps to receive the Spirit. Psychological gimmicks,
"emptyings," "letting go," "absolute surrender" and tricky
inner doings are supposed to bring the Holy Spirit.
If Paul were here, he would ask, "Did you receive
the Holy Spirit when you were justified (that is, when you
believed)?" If our answer were "No," Paul would reply,
"Then you have not received Christian justification." He
would not take us on to higher things; he would take us
back to fundamental things.
2. The Pentecostal teaching implies (and sometimes
states explicitly) that the experience of being baptized in
the Spirit is something greater and beyond the justification
which comes by faith. Out of the abundance of the heart
the mouth speaks. Luther talked about justification most
because to him it was the chief doctrinal jewel of the Bible.
Pentecostals talk about their experience more than anything
else simply because they feel it is greater than the gift of
Justification is the gift of God's righteousness, in all
its totality, to the believing sinner. In God's act of
forgiveness, the entire inheritance of Jesus Christ, the
exceeding and eternal weight of glory, is given to the
believer. This gift can never be superseded, for in it God
gives absolutely all the accumulated treasure of eternity. So
far from being greater, the experience of being filled with
the Spirit is called the "firstfruits" (Rom. 8:23), guarantee
or down payment (Eph.1:13, 14) of that infinite
It is as if a man, journeying abroad, finds himself in
need. A benefactor gives him $30 million – a sum so large
that it cannot be contained on the traveler's person. So it is
deposited to his account at home. In the meantime,
however, he draws $100 from the account as spending
money on the way. As he extolls the goodness of his
benefactor, which does he talk about most – the $30
million or the $100?
The grace which is above us is always infinitely
greater than the grace that is within us. Justification is like
the whole ocean of water that covers and surrounds the
little shell. The experience in the Spirit is like the bit of
water the shell contains.
But Pentecostalism would make it appear that the
down payment of the inheritance is greater than the
inheritance, that the $100 is more wealth than $30 million,
that the shell full of water is more than the ocean. In all this
it represents a serious distortion of the gospel message.
3. Pentecostalism presents an unfortunate dichotomy
of receiving Christ and receiving the Holy Ghost. Not only
is the impression often left on minds that the Holy Spirit
gives a greater and richer blessing than the blessing of the
Savior, but Christ is not presented as a complete gift. The
Pentecostal doctrine declares that there is more to the
gospel than simply receiving Christ as a Savior. In fact,
Pentecostal literature often speaks demeaningly about
those who only know Christ as a Savior. But we are glad to
affirm our faith in the all-sufficiency of Christ. To know
and receive Him as Savior is to receive all that God has to
give. He is both the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor.
1:24). To have Jesus is to have all wisdom, righteousness,
sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). It is not only
vain, but a positive denial of the gospel, to look for a
fulness that is outside or beyond Him. This was the heresy
that threatened the church at Colosse. But Paul affirmed
before the church the absolute all-sufficiency of Christ. "In
Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye
are complete [made full] in Him... "Col. 2:9, 10. Therefore,
to possess Christ is to possess all of the Godhead in Him.
The Spirit in all His infinite plentitude is given to every
believer in Jesus. Everything Christ has belongs to those
who are "married" to Him. Therefore, the gospel of Christ
is the full gospel; and anything that offers Christ plus
something else is Judaizing with another gospel.
4. Pentecostalism makes two different events of the
baptism into Christ and into the Spirit. It proposes that the
church is composed of ordinary ("carnal") Christians and
Spirit-filled Christians – as if the church were like one of
those passenger ships with first- and second-class berths.
But the church is a one-class ship. There is "one Lord, one
faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:5).
"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether
we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been
all made to drink into one Spirit." 1 Cor. 12:13.
Jesus commanded His disciples:
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost..." Matt.
"Ordinary" Christian baptism is therefore the
baptism of the Father, it is the baptism of Christ, and it is
the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In proposing another
baptism and another experience, Pentecostalism goes
beyond the gospel of Christ and confesses that neither
Christ nor His justification is a complete gift of the Father.
– This article was written by the former editor and appears
in Present Truth Vol. 1, #5.
The Great Issues of the
Before you read the next section of the seminar
presentation, you are invited to test yourself by answering
three short questions:
1. Do you believe that the grace of
God in your heart is able to make you
acceptable in the sight of God?
2. Do you believe that Christ as a
divine Person can dwell in your heart?
3. Do you believe that the indwelling
of Christ can make the good works of a
Christian entirely acceptable to God?
Read the following article then check your answers
at the end.
The Great Issues of
The New Testament presents two aspects of God's
Number 1 – God's work for us in Christ.
Number 2 – God's work in us by the Holy Spirit.
Number 1 is what God did outside of us in the
person of Jesus. This is the gospel – God's act of
redemption in Jesus. Number 2 is what God does within
our hearts by the Holy Spirit. This is the fruit of the gospel,
for faith in Number 1 brings the Holy Spirit to the believer.
Number 2 must not be confused with Number 1;
neither must it be divorced from Number 1. While faith
must rest on the objective work of God in Christ, faith
always brings the Holy Spirit with His renewing and
sanctifying work in the hearts of men.
If you take a long pole, you can balance it in an
upright position on your finger if you keep your eye
focused on the top of the pole. The movement of your
finger will follow naturally, almost unconsciously. But if
you start watching what your finger is doing, the pole will
become unbalanced and fall.
As the believer looks away from self to Christ and
rejoices in what He has done for him and what He is to
him, the Spirit of God will live in his heart and continue to
transform his life. But if the believer begins to make his
experience the center of his concern, the true balance of
Christian faith is lost.
The tendency of human nature is to make the
subjective aspect of Christianity the focal point of concern.
This is what happened in the early church. It lost sight of
the great Pauline message of justification by God's work
outside of man. Even in the teachings of the fathers of the
post-apostolic church, the objective truth of justification by
faith held no prominent place. More and more the church
began to focus on the experience of sanctification. Indeed,
justification came to be looked upon only as an initiating
step at the beginning of the Christian's life; the mighty
Pauline truth about justification was subordinated to what
was thought to be the higher blessing of sanctification. The
focus of attention was away from the gospel to the fruit of
the gospel, away from Christ's experience to Christian
experience, away from the objective to the subjective.
We do not depreciate Christian experience when we
say it is not the most important thing. Indeed, true Christian
experience is attained when men make God's work outside
of themselves the foundation of their hope, the focus of
their attention and the object of their glorying.
As the church continued to lose the objective truth of
the gospel, it became more and more centered in religious
experientialism. The pursuit of an extraordinary religious
experience became the great passion of the medieval
church. Men began to do all sorts of weird and wonderful
things in order to attain what they thought was a successful
religious experience. Society was so drowned in its
religious subjectivism that mankind made no scientific or
sociological progress. Rather, civilization went backwards
under the influence of so-called Christian teaching. Men
carried crosses around Europe or sat on poles looking for
some rare vision of God and truth. People went on useless
pilgrimages, venerated "holy" relics and indulged in the
most incredible superstitions. Christendom became a great
cesspool of fantastic ignorance and stagnation.
At the heart of all this corruption was the medieval
church's doctrine of justification. Amazingly enough, the
church did not abandon such Biblical expressions as
justification and salvation by grace. The words of Paul
were still used freely by the theologians (as they are today),
but the great Pauline words (justification, grace, etc.) had
evolved a new meaning altogether. Justification had lost its
objective, forensic meaning. Instead of meaning what God
did outside of man in pronouncing him righteous, it came
to mean God's renewing, sanctifying act in man's own
heart. (Thus Number 1 and Number 2 were utterly
confounded.) Instead of justifying grace meaning the
disposition of mercy and favor in God's heart, grace had
come to mean a God-given quality that adorned the human
soul. The classical doctrine of the church declared that men
were justified by God's work in their own hearts and
experiences. That is to say, it taught justification by
Number 2 instead of by Number 1.
The Reformation Rediscovers Paul
Martin Luther has been called the clearest teacher of
the righteousness which is of faith since the days of the
apostle Paul. He utterly rejected the church's teaching that
God's work within a man qualifies him to be accepted in
the sight of a righteous God. He saw that no man could
find enough righteousness or grace in his heart to confront
God with an easy conscience, and that no one could have
any certainty of salvation if it were to be based on his own
experience. Justifying grace, Luther discovered, is not
some quality that God infuses into the soul, but is God's
favor given to those who are sinful, lost and undeserving.
God's grace in the believer's heart is not the foundation of
a Christian, proclaimed the Reformer, but God's grace in
Christ. Christ's objective work of doing and dying for us,
rather than His work within us, is the sole basis of our
acceptance with God; for the moment justification becomes
based on a subjective experience, confidence toward God
and assurance of justification flee.
The contrast between the medieval church and the
Reformation may be summarized as follows:
Justified by God's work of
grace in the heart.
Justified by God's work of
grace in Christ.
Justified by Christ's work
in our hearts.
Justified by Christ's work
outside of our hearts, i.e.,
on the cross.
The medieval thought was man-centered,
experience-centered, subjective. The Reformation thought
was Christ-centered, cross-centered and objective.
The Reformers did not deny the Spirit's work of
renewal and sanctification within the hearts of God's
people. But they saw clearly that we must first be justified
by faith alone in a work completely outside of us. Then
will the conscience be cleansed, the heart will find peace
with God, and a life of good works will flow from the
certain conviction of being accepted of God.
The Nature of a Christian Man
Is the believer in Christ a sinner or a saint? Does
grace make him more and more righteous, less and less
sinful? Are the good works of a Spirit-filled man still
defiled with human imperfection and sin?
Rome and the Reformers were agreed that man was
born with a corrupt, sinful nature, although the
Reformation did have a much clearer view of the radical
nature of human corruption.
The medieval church thought of grace as being
infused to change and transform the sinful nature of man.
By this transforming change within him, the believer was
said to be made just in God's sight. Then, as he received
more and more grace, the believer was said to become less
and less sinful and at the same time more and more just in
the sight of God. Good works were done in the believer by
the indwelling of Christ and, because of this, were thought
to be entirely pleasing and acceptable to God. Rome held
out to men the possibility of becoming pure and sinless
saints (ontological perfection), and those who attained this
perfection reached sainthood and were qualified to enter
heaven at the hour of death. Those who did not become
perfect and absolutely sinless in the flesh, would need to go
to purgatory after death and thus be made completely just
and qualified to enter heaven.
On the other hand, the Reformers said that God
justifies the ungodly who believe on Christ (Rom. 4: 5),
and that God covers the sinner with the mantle of Christ's
righteousness. Therefore the believer is accepted as just
and righteous, not because of grace or righteousness
poured into him, but because of the righteousness credited
to him by the imputation of Christ's sinless life. There is no
such thing as the believer becoming more and more just,
said the Reformers, for he is fully just before God. There
are no degrees of righteousness with God. Either a man is
fully righteous with Him or not righteous at all. Man is
either accepted fully or not at all. Thus the relative stance
of Romanism was utterly rejected.
Furthermore, said the Protestants, grace does not
change the sinful nature of the believer. The sinful nature
is so desperately wicked that it cannot be reformed by all
efforts with or without grace. This nature will always be
sinful as long as life shall last, and whether a man is a
Christian or not makes no change in the "sinful flesh." But,
said the Reformers, the Holy Spirit brings to the justified
sinner a new nature, even a new man which is created in
righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4:24). A Christian
therefore has two natures. The old nature is called "flesh"
because it is born of the flesh; the new nature is called
"spirit" because it is born of the Spirit (John 3:6).
Furthermore, these two natures are contrary one to the
other. Says the apostle Paul, "For the flesh lusteth against
the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are
contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the
things that ye would." Gal. 5:17. And in a parallel passage
he describes the reality of two natures within a justified
"For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I
not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I
consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do
it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my
flesh,) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how
to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I
do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I
would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find
then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For
I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law
in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me
into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched
man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I
thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I
myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." Rom.
To the Reformers there was no such thing as the
believer becoming more and more just; neither did the
believer's old nature become less and less sinful. Luther
coined a Latin expression to describe the nature of a
Christian man: simul justus et pecator (at the same time
righteous and sinful).
A Christian does not live by trying to reform the
flesh, much less by purifying the flesh from its corruption;
but he gets above it and walks in a new state in Christ. This
is the theme of Paul's thought in Romans 8. The believer
does not live "in the flesh" but "in the Spirit." That is, he
follows the desires, promptings and dictates of the Spirit;
and by His indwelling power he denies, fights and puts to
death the desires and inclinations of the flesh. In this way
the Christian is called to a life of suffering (Rom. 8:10-18;
1 Peter 4:1, 2), to constant warfare against the sinful
nature. The Spirit is not given to release him from painful
conflict but to sustain him in successful conflict until the
". . . ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption,
to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but
hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet
hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with
patience wait for it." Rom. 8:23-25.
Thus, the believer is always a saint, always a sinner.
In Christ he is fully righteous; in himself, by reason of the
sinful nature, he is fully sinful. He has peace, but it is in the
midst of war; he has rest, but it is with tribulations.
Then too, the Reformers had a very different view
from the medieval church on the matter of a Christian's
good works. God must first accept our persons, they said,
quite apart from any of our works (Rom. 3:28; 4:4-6).
Whereas the medieval church taught that God accepts
men's persons because of their works (done with God's
help of course!), the Reformers declared that God accepts
our works because He has accepted our persons through
faith in the Substitute. No good work of the saints is
entirely without sin, said Luther and Calvin many times.
True, God's Spirit causes Christians to do good works, but
the sinful nature of man corrupts all these works with the
taint of human imperfection, said they. Good works are
accepted only by mercy and by the intercession of Christ's
merit at the right hand of God. Neither our persons nor our
works are ever perfect, declared the Reformers, but our
perfection, righteousness and entire satisfaction to the law
reside only in and with our Head.
There is no fulfillment in human experience in this
life. Our righteousness with God is only by faith and not by
the reality of our own experience. Christ is our
righteousness, and His person is not here on earth but in
heaven. Now we are righteous by faith; but hope looks to
the coming of Christ when we shall be altogether righteous
by nature as the angels. Faith pertains to the "now," hope
to the "not yet." Faith looks to the cross and what has been
done for us; hope looks to the glorious future that will be
ushered in at Christ's return. Hope refreshes faith in this
waiting period between the first and second coming of
Christ. Faith restrains hope from trying to bring the "not
yet" into the "now." By faith the Christian knows that sin,
the sinful nature, death and Satan are already vanquished;
but he still feels sin within, the devil without, and sees
death on every hand. If this were not so, there would be no
need to fight the good fight of faith. But by the Spirit he
waits and groans for the day when sin, death and the devil
will be abolished as threatening, visible foes.
ANSWER KEY TO QUESTIONNAIRE
Question 1. Rome says "Yes" and the Reformation says
Note: To make us acceptable to God, it requires infinitely
more grace than we could ever contain in our hearts. We are justified
by the grace of God in Christ.
Question 2. Rome says "Yes" and the Reformation says
Note: Christ as a Person dwells in heaven at the right hand of
God. While we are home in the body, we are absent from the Lord
(see 2 Cor. 5:6; Eccl. 5:2). He is present in His Word and by His
Spirit, and this is how He dwells in our hearts by faith. We do not
worship Christ within us but the Christ without us. Furthermore, our
righteousness with God is in the person of Christ (Isa. 45:24, 25); and
this justifying righteousness is not within us but outside of us in the
person of Christ, who is in heaven.
Question 3. Rome says "Yes" and the Reformation says
Note: God is pleased with the good works of His children for
what they signify - that they love Him and serve Him out of thankful
hearts. Yet these works are not a part of the righteousness by which
they are justified with God. Not merely the indwelling of Christ, but
His intercession of merit before the Father, makes good works
acceptable to God (see Heb.13:21; 1 Peter 2:5). Faith must extend
beyond what Christ can do within us; it must be based on what He
does for us by His intercession.
– This article was written by the former editor and appears
in Present Truth Vol. 1, #5.
Drift Back to Rome
The sixteenth century rediscovery of Paul's objective
message of justification by faith invaded the consciousness
of men with a tempestuous fury and changed the course of
history. The Protestant movement was founded upon a
restoration of the primacy, supremacy and all-sufficiency
of justification by faith. No one would want to contend
that the Protestant Reformation completely recovered the
purity of faith which existed in the apostolic church. The
Reformers did not always agree among themselves. They
were not always consistent in every area. And it was
inevitable that the church did not all at once abandon every
error of the Dark Ages. But in spite of differences and
inconsistencies, the Reformers were absolutely united on
justification by faith – its objective meaning and its
absolute centrality in the Christian faith.
We have already observed that there is a tendency in
human nature to gravitate from the objective stance of the
gospel to religious subjectivism, to shift the central focus
from Christ's experience to Christian experience. This is
what happened in the great "falling away" in the early
church. And the same evolution has taken place within the
The Error of the Sects
Even before the Reformers had passed off the stage,
different sects began to grow up within the Protestant
movement and to break from the founding churches. The
sects said that Luther made a good start in reviving the
doctrine of justification by faith, but they had the feeling
that Luther stood only half way and that they must go on,
higher. These sects were generally not without some truth.
Often they emphasized something that was neglected by
the founding churches of the Reformation. But Luther
discerned that they erred on the great charter of
Protestantism – justification by faith – and, as far as he was
concerned, if this was wrong everything was wrong.
"Whoever departs from the article of justification does not
know God and is an idolater," wrote Luther. "For when this
article has been taken away, nothing remains but error,
hypocrisy, godlessness, and idolatry, although it may seem
to be the height of truth, worship of God, holiness, etc." –
What Luther Says (St. Louis, Mo.: Concordia Publishing
House, 1959), Vol. II, pp. 702-704.
These sectarian teachers did not deny justification as
an initiating step in the Christian life. Their error was the
old one of relegating justification to something whereby
the believer can make a start and then go on to higher
things. With them, justification by faith was no longer the
center. Their focus was away from Christ's experience to
their own, from the objective to the subjective. Luther
understood their mentality when he said:
"For people say, Why, this man can preach about nothing but
baptism, the ten commandments, the Lord's Prayer, and faith –
matters which even the children know nowadays. Why is it that he is
forever dinning the same sermon into our ears. Who cannot do this?
One must not surely stay forever with the same matter but continue
and progress (say the sects). Dear people, you have now heard the self
same stuff for so long a time; you must rise higher." – Ibid., Vol. III,
In the time of the Reformers, the Munzerites and
radical Anabaptists gave great prominence to the work and
gifts of the Spirit. Their cry was, "The Spirit! the Spirit!"
but Luther replied, "I will not follow where their spirit
leads." They were the sixteenth century charismatics.
Then there was Osiander. At first a disciple and
colaborer with Luther, he broke from the Reformation
teaching on justification by an imputed (outside)
righteousness and began to teach that the believer is
justified by the indwelling of Christ and His essential
righteousness. Both Luther and Calvin recognized that
Osiander's teaching was a return, in principle, to the
Roman Catholic idea of justification. Some of the sects
erred from the gospel in that they tried to go beyond
righteousness by faith to seeking a state of absolute
sinlessness in this mortal life on earth. The Reformers also
recognized that this was actually Roman Catholic
perfectionism in new garments.
After the time of the Reformers, the Protestant
movement went through the period known as Protestant
orthodoxy. Heresies were resisted by careful definition and
redefinition of the Protestant faith. Faith tended to become
intellectualized; and although some good theology was
produced in this period, orthodoxy produced a sterile faith
and a dead church.
In Germany, Pietism arose as a reaction against the
dead orthodoxy of the Lutheran Church. It cannot be
denied that many of the Pietist leaders were earnest, godly
men; and their witness did accomplish some good. But the
definite tendency of Pietism was to distort the objective
gospel with an exaggerated emphasis on experience. Much
of the German Pietism recaptured the spirit of the great
Catholic mystics and resembled it in its sentimental (even
effeminate) Christian devotions.
Eighteenth century England witnessed a remarkable
movement which was also a reaction to the dead formalism
of the Church of England. The truth of justification by faith
had been largely lost from the church. These were the days
of the fox-hunting parsons who loved their dogs more than
the flock. Moreover, there was a growing working class,
unchurched and untouched by an indifferent church. John
Wesley was probably the most outstanding man of the
eighteenth century in any country in the world. He was one
of the most successful itinerant evangelists since Paul. His
effect on the whole national life of England (especially on
the working class) was so remarkable that some credit his
ministry with saving England from a revolution similar to
that which engulfed France.
John Wesley believed in justification by faith and
taught it with power. His "long suit," however, was
sanctification. He had been deeply influenced by Moravian
Pietism and certain of the great Catholic mystics. Wesley's
emphasis on sanctification was both the strength and
weakness of the Methodist movement. It was the strength
of Methodism because such an emphasis was sorely
needed. Among many, the doctrine of imputed
righteousness had become perverted with antinomianism.
Many were making the Reformation concept of imputed
righteousness an excuse for all sorts of ungodliness. Like
a John the Baptist, Wesley laid the ax at the root of the tree
and called for fruit that was meet for repentance. Along
with justification by the blood of Christ, Wesley
emphasized the renewing power of the Holy Spirit in
conforming lives to true obedience to the law of God.
Apart from sanctified obedience to the law of God, Wesley
declared that no soul would retain the blessing of
Wesley's emphasis on sanctification was also the
weakness of Methodism. As Niebuhr has pointed out:
"...[Wesley's] thought is rooted in the New Testament doctrine
of forgiveness and justification. However, he regards justification in
essentially Augustinian terms, as forgiveness for sins that are past;
and he thinks of sanctification as the higher stage of redemption." –
Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man (New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1949), Vol. II, p. 180.
Wesley developed a doctrine of entire sanctification,
known also as the "second blessing" or "Methodist
perfection." He proposed that after justification and a
process of sanctification, the believer could receive by faith
a sudden second blessing which would completely purge
the soul from inbred sin enabling the fully sanctified to feel
nothing but perfect love. He called this experience ''a still
higher salvation," "immensely greater than that wrought
when he was justified" (Plain Account, p. 7). Wesley and
his preachers urged their hearers to seek this second
blessing of perfection with all diligence. They did, and
gave proof of it in lives of earnest (and sometimes frantic)
With Paul and Luther, justification by faith was the
whole truth of the gospel. But in Wesleyanism, the
centrality and all-sufficiency of justification tended to be
lost by being subordinated to sanctification.
However, it must be said to the everlasting credit of
John Wesley that, although he preached it to others, till his
dying day he frankly confessed he had not attained his
famous "second blessing." He always sought it but only
attained to the hope of it. He was too humble and honest to
confess anything but that he still felt sin strong within him
– although few men exhibited the mastery over inbred sin
as well as he did.
Unfortunately, not all of Wesley's followers were as
prudent or as humble as the great evangelist. The trouble
began when some of them did profess that they had
attained the second blessing of entire sanctification. A few
were preachers, and some of these soon fell to the
temptation of imagining that they were superior to Wesley.
The great Methodist revival was therefore plagued and
embarrassed by some fanaticism. The problem did not
come to the surface as long as all the Methodists were
seeking perfection. It boiled over when some claimed to
have attained it.
This also must be said in Wesley's favor: Most of his
labors were directed in preaching the gospel to the
unsaved. Hence he was obliged to spend most of his time
and energy preaching justification by faith to sinners. This
was a great providential blessing, for it kept the evangelist
in better balance. The same thing cannot be said of all
Wesley's spiritual children.
American Revivalism and the Holiness Movement
Eighteenth and early nineteenth century American
Protestantism became heir of much of Methodism's
religious fervor. America developed its own style and
brand of revivalism. It suited the national temper and was
unconsciously molded by the frontier spirit.
Frontier life was rude, raw and exciting. Some of the
frontier people saw very little of churches or preachers
except once a year at a big tent revival meeting. As the
growing calves were rounded up once a year for branding,
so the growing youth needed to be gathered in and "saved,"
while the older people felt their need for a good "clean-up"
in the yearly revival time. As Vinson Synan has well said:
"Those who attended such camp meetings... generally
expected their religious experiences to be as vivid as the frontier life
around them. Accustomed to 'braining bears and battling Indians,'
they received their religion with great color and excitement." –
Vinson Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in the United
States (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans' Publishing Co.,
1971), p. 25.
Sometimes the religious fervor was accompanied by
great emotional excesses such as "godly hysteria," falling,
jerking, "the holy laugh," barking like dogs and "such wild
dances as David performed before the Ark of the Lord."
In the nineteenth century, Charles Finney was such
a successful evangelist that, by 1850, revivalism – Charles
Finney style – became like the national religion of
America. Finney's Systematic Theology (still one of the
most popular manuals on theology in the Pentecostal
churches today) is very critical of Luther and Calvin with
respect to their teaching of justification by faith through an
imputed righteousness. Finney's predominant emphasis is
on sanctification and God's work within human experience
– an emphasis which is neither Pauline nor Reformation.
His preaching led people into a very emotional, crisis
experience, and a seeking after a holiness of experience
that would be acceptable to God.
In all these revival influences, the predominant
emphasis was to find God in a very dramatic, emotional,
empirical, inward experience of the heart. There was very
little focus on being acceptable to God by faith in an
experience and a righteousness not our own but outside of
us in the person of Christ. American revivalism was far
more subjective than objective, far more
experience-centered than gospel-centered.
About the middle of the last century, the Methodist
Church (which was then the largest church in the U.S.A.)
experienced a remarkable resurgence of interest in the
doctrine of the "second blessing." As Synan writes, "The
optimistic idea that one could find perfection seemed to
match the general optimism that prevailed throughout
American society." – Ibid., p. 22. "It was a kind of
evangelical transcendentalism which thrived in the
idealism of a young and growing America." – Ibid., p. 30.
"The decade of the 1840's, therefore, witnessed a veritable
flood of perfectionistic teaching in the Methodist Church.
Leading pastors, bishops, and theologians led the
movement, giving it institutional and intellectual
respectability." – Ibid., p. 28.
This development spilled over into other Protestant
bodies, and by 1869 it became known as the "holiness
movement." Independent "holiness" publications sprang up
all over the country. The movement spread to England and
found expression in the renowned Keswick Convention.
The emphasis that was popularized in the holiness
movement was concerning the victorious, Spirit-filled life.
Its focal point was not on justification or conversion but on
the attainment of an empirical experience of holiness and
entire sanctification subsequent to conversion. Boardman,
Inskip, A.B. Simpson, Torrey and Andrew Murray were
some of the best-known writers and leaders of the
movement. Hannah W. Smith's The Christian's Secret of a
Happy Life (still circulated today) expressed very well the
aspirations of the holiness people. Holiness-type books can
generally be detected by titles that major on experience
rather than on the gospel (The Victorious Life, Keys to
Victorious Living, The Spirit-Filled Life, etc.). The punch
line of these books is generally on Romans 7 and Romans
8: "Get out of Romans 7 into Romans 8" (which,
incidentally, is decidedly contrary to what the Reformers
One could not disparage the holiness contribution as
all bad. But the objective nature and value of justification
and forgiveness cease to be the center of its thrust. They
are undervalued, even demeaned in the overwhelming
preoccupation with religious experience and perfectionism.
The holiness movement goes aground on the rocks of
subjectivism, and because of this, it is basically more in
harmony with Roman Catholicism than with Protestantism.
In the 1890's the Methodist Church finally took an
administrative stand against the holiness movement.
Consequently, between the years 1890 and 1900,
twenty-three holiness denominations were founded.
The Pentecostal Movement
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, many
within the holiness movement began to speak about and
seek for the "baptism of fire. " One branch of the holiness
movement was called the "Fire-Baptized Holiness Church"
(originating in Iowa in 1895 and led by Benjamin Irwin).
Those receiving "the fire" would often shout, scream, fall
in trances or speak in other tongues. This "baptism of fire"
was regarded as a miraculous visitation of the Spirit that
followed entire sanctification. The more conservative
teachers of the holiness movement rejected this "third"
blessing of fire, for they regarded the second blessing and
the special baptism of the Spirit as synonymous.
But the radical "fire" advocates continued to make
an impact within the movement with fiery preaching and
publications like Live Coals of Fire (first published in
October, 1899). This paper spoke of "the blood that cleans
up, the Holy Ghost that fills up, the fire that burns up, and
the dynamite that blows up." It is not hard to imagine the
eccentric and mind-bending manifestations that
accompanied the blowing-up stage of this religious high.
The logical outcome of this religious trend was the
appearance of the twentieth-century Pentecostal movement,
which generally traces its beginnings to the ministry of
Charles Parham at Topeka, Kansas in 1900. Says Synan:
"The Pentecostal movement arose as a split in the holiness
movement and can be viewed as the logical outcome of the holiness
crusade which had vexed American Protestantism for forty years..."
– Synan, op. cit., p. 115.
Dr. Frederick Dale Bruner also says:
"Out of the world-wide holiness movements the Pentecostal
movement was born. The Pentecostal historian, Charles Conn, notes
'that the Pentecostal movement is an extension of the holiness revival
that occurred during the last half of the nineteenth century.'" –
Frederick Dale Bruner, A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids,
Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans’ Publishing Co., 1970), p. 44.
Says noted Catholic author and contemporary ecumenist,
"John Wesley was father to much of the 19th century
American religious fervor; one of his children was the Holiness
Movement which gave rise to the Pentecostalism of the 20th century."
– Kilian McDonnell, "The Classical Pentecostal Movement," New
Covenant, Vol. I, No.11 (May, 1972), p. 1. (New Covenant is a
monthly publication serving the Catholic charismatic renewal.)
The Pentecostal movement came into being directly
on the issue of insisting that the physical sign of speaking
in tongues was the evidence of the baptism of the Spirit.
This issue of tongues caused a split between the holiness
and Pentecostal movements; yet the basic emphasis of the
two movements remains the same.
Pentecostalism is the inevitable end of subjective
revivalism. It is American revivalism in its final form of
development. The kind of revivals that operate in the
United States may not be overtly Pentecostal or
charismatic, but they tend in that direction because they are
supremely orientated toward religious experientialism.
The Trend Toward Rome
For more than 400 years, influences have been at
work within the Protestant movement to erode the
objective emphasis of the Reformation doctrine of
justification by faith. It has been a drift back to Romanism.
A few years ago, noted Roman Catholic author, Louis
Bouyer, made these stunning observations:
"The Protestant Revival... recalls the best and most authentic
elements of the Catholic tradition... – Louis Bouyer, The Spirit and
Forms of Protestantism (Cleveland, Ohio: World Publishing Co.,
1964), p. 186.
"We see in every Protestant country, Christians who owed
their religion to the movement we have called, in general,
Revivalism, attain a more or less complete rediscovery of
Catholicism." – Ibid., p. 188.
"The contemporary revivals most valuable and lasting in their
results all present a striking analogy with this process of rediscovery
of Catholicism..." – Ibid., p. 189.
"...the instinctive orientation of the revivals toward the
Catholic... would bring in that way a reconciliation between the
Protestant Movement and the Church..." – Ibid., p. 197.
Bouyer closes with an appeal to his fellow Catholics
to prepare for the inevitable return of the "separated
brethren" under the influence of contemporary revivals.
The fact that many revivalists regard themselves as
anti-Catholic makes no difference, for as Bouyer points
out, they are simply in the dark about how the heart of their
emphasis is in profound harmony with Catholicism. If the
reader wants to know what Rome thinks about the most
popular U.S. revivalists today, he would be well advised to
secure the July, 1972 issue of The Catholic Digest.
Also a few years ago, Protestant scholar Paul Tillich
observed that we have reached "the end of the Protestant
"For the kind of Protestantism which has developed in
America is not so much an expression of the Reformation, but has
more to do with the so-called Evangelical Radicals. There are the
Lutheran and Calvinistic groups, and they are strong, but they have
adapted themselves to an astonishing degree to the climate of
American Protestantism. This climate has not been made by them, but
by the sectarian movements. Thus when I came to America twenty
years ago, the theology of the Reformation was almost unknown in
Union Theological Seminary [New York] because of the different
traditions, and the reduction of the Protestant tradition nearer to the
non-Reformation traditions." – Paul Tillich, A History of Christian
Thought (London: S.C.M. Press, Ltd., 1968), pp. 225, 226. (From
lectures first given in 1953.)
"Luther's conflict with the evangelical radicals is especially
important for American Protestants because the prevailing type of
Christianity in America was not produced by the Reformation
directly, but by the indirect effect of the Reformation through the
movement of evangelical radicalism." – Ibid., p. 239.
The last decade has more than justified the
observations of Bouyer and Tillich. The drift toward Rome
has become like that place in the Niagara River where the
boatsman reaches the point of no return as the water rushes
on toward the falls. We must now consider this
The Neo-Pentecostal, or Charismatic, Movement
From 1900 to 1960, the Pentecostal movement
continued to grow outside the mainstream of Protestantism.
Yet by 1960 it had attained a world-wide membership of
about eight million. At that time, men like Dr. Henry Van
Dusen began to call the movement the "third force" in
Then about 1960 a remarkable change took place.
Pentecostalism began to jump the denominational
boundary lines and to penetrate the mainline Protestant
churches. As John Sherrill says in his book, They Speak
With Other Tongues, "the walls came tumbling down."
Soon there were thousands, and then millions, of
Episcopalian, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian,
Congregationalist and other Protestant Pentecostals. This
interdenominational phase of the movement became known
as the neo-Pentecostal, or charismatic, movement. It was
no longer a separate denomination but an experience that
transcended all denominational boundary lines. Those
sharing the experience in different denominations saw
themselves as having more in common with each other
than with non-charismatics of the same church. Many
confidently predicted that this was the beginning of the
greatest revival the world had ever known.
Toward the end of the decade, the neo-Pentecostal
movement made two further astounding strides. It entered
the new youth culture and became known as the Jesus
movement. (It is estimated that ninety per cent of the Jesus
People, as they are called, have some form of Pentecostal
experience.) Many from the drug culture became "high" on
Jesus instead of drugs. Then, to crown its success, the
neo-Pentecostal movement entered the Catholic Church in
1967. After a modest beginning in its great centers of
learning (Duquesne and Notre Dame), it is now spreading
rapidly in the Catholic Church, attracting the support of
cardinals, bishops and thousands of priests and nuns. Since
Roman Catholics are now receiving the identical
Pentecostal experience as Protestants, the old-line
Pentecostals are having to re-evaluate their attitude to
Roman Catholicism. Traditionally anti-papal, the classical
Pentecostal churches are changing their stance since
"Pentecost" has come to Rome.
Although Pentecostalism was introduced to the
Catholic Church initially by Protestant Pentecostals, it is
meeting even less resistance in Catholic circles than in
Protestant circles. In fact, as many Catholic authors are
pointing out, Pentecostalism is more at home in the ancient
church. It is more at home there because the overwhelming
Pentecostal emphasis on the subjective experience is in
essential harmony with the tradition of the Roman Church.
Says Benedictine monk, Father Edward O'Connor of Notre
"Although they derive from Protestant backgrounds, the
Pentecostal churches are not typically Protestant in their beliefs,
attitudes or practices." – Edward O'Connor, The Pentecostal
Movement in the Catholic Church (Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria
Press, 1971), p. 23.
"...it cannot be assumed that the Pentecostal movement
represents an incursion of Protestant influence." – Ibid., p.32.
"...Catholics who have accepted Pentecostal spirituality have
found it to be fully in harmony with their traditional faith and life.
They experience it, not as a borrowing from an alien religion, but as
a connatural development of their own." – Ibid., p. 28.
". . . the spiritual experience of those who have been touched
by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal movement is in
profound harmony with the classical spiritual theology of the
Church." – Ibid., p. 183.
"...the experience of the Pentecostal movement tends to
confirm the validity and relevance of our authentic spiritual
traditions." – Ibid., p. 191.
"Moreover, the doctrine that is developing in the Pentecostal
churches today seems to be going through stages very similar to those
which occurred in the early Middle Ages when the classical doctrine
was taking shape." – Ibid., pp. 193, 194.
Moreover, neo-Pentecostalism certainly does
nothing to unsettle the faith of Catholics in their church
and traditions. Says Father O'Connor:
"Similarly, the traditional devotions of the Church have taken
on more meaning. Some people have been brought back to a frequent
use of the sacrament of Penance through the experience of the
baptism in the Spirit. Others have discovered a place for devotion to
Mary in their lives, whereas previously they had been indifferent or
even antipathetic toward her. One of the most striking effects of the
Holy Spirit's action has been to stir up devotion to the Real Presence
in the Eucharist." – Edward O'Connor, Pentecost in the Catholic
Church (Pecos, N.M.: Dove Publications, 1970), pp.14, 15.
The Ecumenical Phase of Pentecostalism
The 1970's have brought us to a great ecumenical
phase of revivalism and the charismatic movement. Says
Christianity Today of February 1, 1972:
"The force that appears to be making the greatest contribution
to the current Christian revival around the globe is Pentecostalism.
This movement, which began several decades ago, and which in its
early years was very sectarian in character, is now becoming
ecumenical in the deepest sense. A neo-Pentecostalism has lately
appeared that includes many thousands of Roman Catholics... A new
era of the Spirit has begun. The charismatic experience moves
Christians far beyond glossalalia... There is light on the horizon. An
evangelical renaissance is becoming visible along the Christian
highway from the frontiers of the sects to the high places of the
Roman Catholic communion. This appears to be one of the most
strategic moments in the Church's history."
The May, 1972 issue of New Covenant (Catholic
charismatic publication) features Catholics and Protestants
uniting in a great charismatic fellowship. It proclaims that
the charismatic movement holds the hope of healing the
wound of the sixteenth century. Dr. Henry Pitney Van
Dusen (Union Theological Seminary) is featured as saying:
"The presence of the charismatic (Pentecostal) movement
among us is said to make a new era in the development of
Christianity. This new Pentecost will appear to future historians as a
'true reformation' (compared to that of the 16th century) from which
will spring a third force in the Christian world
(Protestant-Catholic-Pentecostal )." – Henry Pitney Van Dusen, New
Covenant, op. cit., p. 19.
This union is not based on objective truth but on
subjective experience. American Christianity is drowning
in a sea of religious subjectivism. Charismatic literature
(and with it we include all this subjective revivalism) is
infesting the land like the frogs of Egypt (see Rev. 16:13,
14). Never has such a mass of literature been so devoid of
the gospel of Christ. There is scarcely one extrinsic,
objective thought in it. It is all "in and in and in," a return
to sentimental, effeminate, medieval mysticism. No wonder
one of the points of dialogue between Pentecostal leaders
and the Roman Catholic Church (a dialogue which is now
in progress in Rome) is the remarkable similarity between
Pentecostalism and Catholic mysticism. The startling fact
of the crumbling of Protestant resistance to Pentecostalism
illustrates the decadence of the Protestant churches. Even
the word Protestant is becoming a dirty word.
A Fulfillment of Prophecy
Multitudes are exulting that the church is being
stirred by the fires of revivalism. This is not a passing fad
but a remarkable fulfillment of Bible prophecy. If the
Protestant movement had not cast away the historical
system of prophetic interpretation (which was espoused by
the Reformers) in favor of futurism (developed by the
it might have escaped the delusion of these last
Protestants once generally accepted the fact that the
leopard-like beast of Revelation 13 was a symbol of the
papacy, which dominated European civilization for about
1,000 years. Armed with the objective truth of justification
by faith, the Reformation gave the "man of sin" a "deadly
wound." In breaking the stranglehold of papal thought, it
set the nations free from papal domination (see Rev. 13:3).
But the prophecy of Revelation clearly foretells a
restoration of the power of the ancient church to dominate
the minds and enslave the consciences of men. The prophet
"And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come
down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth
them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he
had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on
the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the
wound by a sword, and did live." Rev. 13:13, 14.
"Fire... from heaven... in the sight of men" is an
astoundingly accurate picture of American Protestantism
caught up in the fires of false revivalism and Pentecostal
ism. Fire is the favorite symbol of the charismatic
movement – and it is the symbol God uses to describe that
movement because it is a counterfeit outpouring of the
Holy Spirit. It is not really fire from heaven, but it appears
to be fire from heaven. It is "fire... from heaven... in the
sight of men." But by its influence it will cause "the earth
and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast,
whose deadly wound was healed" (Rev. 13:12).
The last days are to be marked by great religious
deceptions. Working in the guise of "fire... from heaven"
(the baptism of the Holy Spirit), "the spirits of devils" will
"go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole
world, to gather them to the battle of the great day of God
Almighty" (Rev. 16:14; see also 2 Thess. 2:8-12).
Already it is considered as blasphemy to speak
against the supernatural workings within the new
Pentecostal movement. A spirit of boastful certainty and
arrogant intolerance has often been manifested by those
who "have the Spirit." The preoccupation with inward
experience is leading multitudes back to the religious
philosophy of the medieval church. Rome knows the score.
She reads what is to be. Some well-meaning men seem to
be as paralyzed as Melanchthon was when he did not know
whether or not to speak out against the spiritualistic
enthusiasts who came to Wittenberg while Luther was
hidden in the Wartburg Castle. It was this issue that led the
great Reformer to come out of hiding and to risk his life.
Cried the Spirit-filled leaders on being granted an
interview with Luther, "The Spirit! the Spirit!" The
Reformer was decidedly unimpressed, "I slap your spirit on
the snout," he thundered. He saw that the great truth of
justification by faith was diametrically opposed to these
"German prophets," as he styled them.
We have now come to the time when the great issues
of the sixteenth century have to be fought out again. This
time the conflict will be more severe, and it will be final.
Roll up the old denominational boundary lines. There is
going to be a regrouping of the religious world. On the one
side there will be a grand union of Catholics,
pseudo-Protestants and Pentecostals in what appears to be
a movement for the conversion of the whole world. This
movement is described in Revelation 13. On the other side
there will be a movement to restore the everlasting gospel
in its pristine purity and power. This movement is
described in Revelation 14. In our concluding study we
must consider the features of God's final message.
– This article was written by the former editor and appears
in Present Truth Vol. 1, #5.
By Blood and by
The Word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword (Heb.
4:12). The two cutting edges are the law and the gospel. As
Melanchthon points out in his Apology of the Augsburg
Confession, "All Scripture ought to be distributed into
these two principal topics" (see Book of Concord [St.
Louis, Mo.: Concordia Publishing House, 1957], p. 32).
And the Formula of Concord
"These two doctrines belong together and should always be
urged by the side of each other, but in a definite order and with a
proper distinction, and the Antinomians or assailants of the law are
justly condemned, who abolish the preaching of the law from the
church, and wish sins to be reproved, and repentance and sorrow to
be taught, not from the law, but from the gospel... These two
doctrines, we believe and confess, should ever and ever be diligently
inculcated in the Church of God even to the end of the world." – Ibid.,
pp. 260, 261.
Such clear statements are not confined to the
Lutheran confessions, but similar statements are also found
in the founding articles of the Reformed and Anglican
We agree with Edmund Schlink, who says, "As the
law cannot be preached without Christ, so Christ's work
cannot be preached without the law." – Edmund Schlink,
Theology of the Lutheran Confessions (Philadelphia:
Fortress Press, 1961), p. 86. The gospel is no great glory to
those who have never stood before Mount Sinai, so to
speak, and trembled before the awesome majesty of God's
law. Those who have never felt the strength of sin (which
is by the law) can never appreciate the joy and sweetness
of the gospel. See how the apostle Paul uses the law in
Romans (chs. 1-3) to prepare our hearts for the hearing of
the gospel. It is certain that those who do not hear the law
cannot hear the gospel. Neither can Christ's work for us be
understood or appreciated apart from the law.
The Law of Love
Law is the basis of all good government. No
government can exist without law. God has a law which is
the basis of the divine government. One word may be used
to summarize that law: love (Rom. 13:8-10).
Love is not a feeling of ecstatic pleasure. It is not a
high religious rapture. It is an eternal principle, or law, of
life. God has not left sinful mortals to work out their own
interpretation of love but has carefully shown what is
involved so that only the most obstinate need remain in
If you pass light through a spectrum or glass prism,
it breaks down into the colors of the rainbow. We then
realize that light is the combination of the colors of the
rainbow. When love is placed under the prism of God's
Word, we may see that it is a combination, or blending, of
ten eternal principles. These ten aspects of love are
verbalized in the Ten Commandments:
1. Loyalty. "Thou shalt have no other gods before
Me." God is our Creator and Redeemer. Therefore we
should love Him before everything else. He is to be first
and last and best in everything. Love is loyal.
2. Faithfulness. In forbidding us from worshiping a
god of our own making, the Lord says, "I the Lord thy God
am a jealous God." He is the Husband of His people. Love
requires faithfulness in our covenant to love Him with the
kind of devotion that belongs to no other. The Bible uses
the marriage covenant and relationship to illustrate the kind
of faithfulness that love to God requires. The prophets
likened Israel's unfaithfulness to the covenant-keeping
Yahweh as harlotry and whoredom. Apostasy is spiritual
3. Reverence. God's name is holy and is to be held
in awe and reverence. Reverence is the foundation of all
true worship. God cannot do anything with an irreverent
man. Popular revivals often try to make God into a popular
somebody. The irreverence of much within the "Jesus
movement" is blasphemy. As Luther said about the
charismatics of his day, "They talk to God as if He were a
shoemaker's apprentice." Love is reverent.
4. Holiness. The fourth precept of the Decalogue
was given to inculcate and illustrate holiness – wholeness
for God, sanctification, separation and dedication to His
service. Holiness is not rapture or the exercise of a high
degree of religious feelings under extraordinary
circumstances. It is doing the will of God, obeying His
Word with unquestioning confidence. Love is holy.
5. Respect for Authority. The fifth commandment
enjoins respect, not only for parents, but for all legitimate
authority. Love is not lawless or disorderly. It does not
disrespect those over us in positions of authority. Paul
warned Timothy, "This know also, that in the last days
perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their
own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers,
disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy..." 2 Tim. 3:1, 2.
6. Respect for Life. "Thou shalt not kill," like the
other commandments, is exceedingly broad. In His Sermon
on the Mount, Jesus showed that He did not come to
weaken, much less do away with, the Decalogue, but to
show its far-reaching claims. To be angry with a brother
without cause or to rail on him is to be in danger of
judgment and hell-fire. Love will seek to preserve and
promote life, not destroy and kill, even as Christ said, "The
thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy:
I am come that they might have life, and that they might
have it more abundantly." John 10:10. Paul also said,
"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the
Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye
are not your own?" 1 Cor. 6:19. "If any man defile the
temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of
God is holy, which temple ye are." 1 Cor. 3:17. Multitudes
of professed Christians live intemperately, abuse their
health and indulge themselves in debilitating habits, not
knowing that for all these things God shall bring them into
7. Purity. Love is pure. Jesus warned us that the last
days would be marked by the kind of widespread
immorality which existed in the time of Noah and Lot. We
scarcely need to be reminded that we are living in the midst
of an immoral revolution. The church is supposed to be the
salt which preserves society from utter corruption, but what
can we expect when professed churches of Christ become
a cage of every unclean and hateful bird? The San
Francisco Chronicle of January 5, 1972 reported:
"Homosexuals were blessed as psychologically fit for the
ministry by a narrow vote of the First Congregationalist church
yesterday. (Resolution to ban them was defeated by 68 votes to 63)."
If the minority 63 delegates did not get up and get
out of a church like that, they too have lost all sense of the
abominable condition of such a church.
8. Honesty. Love is honest, and it always gives good
measure, pressed down and running over.
9. Truthfulness. Jehovah is a God of truth, and His
Spirit is called the Spirit of truth. We are commanded to
speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).
10. Contentment. The selfish heart will always
covet; but where love is, there will be "godliness with
Here is love. Love is loyal, faithful, reverent and
holy. It respects authority and life. It is pure, honest,
truthful and contented. The Ten Commandments describe
the kind of people God will have in His kingdom.
Everything contrary and rebellious to these eternal
principles of a righteous character will be shut out. Sin
needs to be clearly defined, and in the Ten Commandments
it is so clearly defined that both learned and ignorant may
understand. Sin is the transgression of this law (1 John
3:4), and the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).
To transgress the Decalogue is an affront to the
awesome majesty of a sin-hating God. That Israel might
know something of the terrible majesty and sacred
character of His law, God brought them to Mount Sinai. As
God spoke the Ten Words in the hearing of the people, the
whole mountain was enveloped in fire and smoke, and the
earth shook at the voice of the Eternal. The people were in
fearful terror, and even Moses declared, "I exceedingly fear
and quake." The people cried, "Let not God speak with us,
lest we die." Sinful mortals were not even able to hear the
law, much less do it!
When God invited the people at Sinai to enter into
covenant with Him, they confidently declared, "All that the
Lord hath spoken we will do." Ex. 19:8. The Lord said to
Moses, "They have well said all that they have spoken. O
that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear
Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it might
be well with them.... "Deut. 5:28, 29. God knew that the
sinful heart of man would not keep its best resolutions.
Within a few days Israel forgot God and entered into the
wildest religious orgy. And as long as anyone has nothing
better to trust in than his promises to God, he will be under
the law without hope of justification or pardon.
The New Covenant
The new covenant is based on better promises (Heb.
8:6) – not a better law or a better government or even better
conditions, but a promise based on an oath (Heb. 6:16-18).
A covenant has two parties. The old covenant was between
God and the people. The new covenant was between God
and Christ (Zech. 6:12, 13). It was an everlasting covenant,
a plan which existed from times eternal (see Rom 16:25,
In the new covenant, Christ stands in the place of the
people. He becomes the Substitute and Surety for them. In
their name and on their behalf, He makes an oath to God:
"All that the Lord hath said I will do." Thus, "when the
fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son,
made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that
were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of
sons" (Gal. 4:4, 5).
Righteousness is obedience to the law. This the
sinner owes to the law, but he is incapable of rendering it
(Rom. 8:3). With infinite pity, the Son of God looked upon
the lost race, but He could not indulgently save them. If He
was to save them, He must save them in a way consistent
with the perfect justice of a righteous law. He chose to
undertake for them, to step down, to stand in their place
and to render to the law all that it required. He did it
because His love called Him that way. For Him heaven was
not a place to be desired while we were without God and
without hope in the world.
In the person of His Son, the eternal God came to
this planet. He humbled Himself to take the form of man,
as a man He humbled Himself to become a servant, and as
a servant He humbled Himself to death, even the death of
the cross (Phil. 2:5-8).
The second Person of the Godhead partook of the
substance and essence of human nature as it was affected
by sin but not infected by sin. As true man – indeed, as the
representative Man – He lived the law of God. He was the
law, the Word, the Ten Words made flesh; "...(and we
beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the
Father,) full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). In our name,
He gave to the law a life that equaled its broadest claims.
The obedience of Jesus was the obedience that the law
required of us. He was always loyal ("I must be about My
Father's business"), faithful, reverent, holy, respectful,
pure, honest, truthful and contented.
The righteous demands of the law could not be met
alone by the holy living of our Substitute. We have sinned,
and justice demands that the death penalty be executed.
Here again, Christ took our place to make entire
satisfaction to the law on our behalf.
As Jesus entered the Garden of Gethsemane on the
night of His betrayal, His soul was overwhelmed with a
superhuman sorrow. He said to His disciples, "My soul is
exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." Leaving them at
the entrance of the garden, He staggered on alone. The sins
of the whole world rolled like a mountain on His divine
soul until He began to sweat drops of blood. It was in a
garden that the first Adam sold the race to Satan. It was in
a very different garden that Jesus made the final decision
to redeem the race.
Behold now! The Judge of all becomes the Judged
of all. Adam in Eden blamed God for his sin. So has every
sinner. God says, "Very well, I will take the blame!" The
Judge steps down and invites sinners to judge Him. And
judge Him they did. He was arrested at midnight as if He
were a wild animal. He was arraigned before corrupt
courts, abused, spat upon, derided, lashed, crowned with
thorns. When Pilate invited men to choose between Jesus,
the Son of God, and Barabbas, the murderous robber, they
overwhelmingly called for Barabbas; as if to say,
"Barabbas is a very saint compared to Jesus." He was
judged as if He were a snake, a venomous, poisonous
snake, unfit to live on this planet. "Away with Him I" they
cried. "Let Him be crucified!" And so He was led forth
before the rage of an infuriated mob to die a most cruel and
The mystery of human sin is that they hated Him
"without a cause" (John 15:25). But greater yet is the
mystery of love, that He could love them without a cause.
The blacker the night, the more brilliant the stars. His love
for sinners became stronger and stronger as they hated Him
more and more.
He was lifted up from earth on the cross because
earth had refused her King. And not only earth but Heaven
too, for He was now the sinner in the awful reckoning of
God. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
even so must the Son of man be lifted up . . . " John 3:14.
"For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin;
that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
2 Cor. 5:21.
"Transgressors cannot dwell with God,
They have no ray of light;
So Christ saw not the Father's face,
Only eternal night."
As the darkness and despair of eternal separation
from God gathered about the soul of Christ, He suffered
anguish so great that His physical pain was hardly felt.
This was infinite suffering that would make the suffering
of all the holy martyrs combined appear as nothing. This
was infinite humiliation, for there was no lower place for
the King of glory to go.
The awful sense of being separated from God forced
from His parched lips the awful cry, "My God, My God,
why hast Thou forsaken Me?" The answer is in Romans 3:
"Because there is none righteous, no, not one. No one
understands, no one seeks after God." But we may now cry,
"My God, my God, why hast Thou accepted me?" And the
gospel answers: "Because there is One righteous, yes, just
One." God promised Jeremiah that He would spare
Jerusalem from the Babylonians if he could find one
righteous man in it (Jer. 5:1). But more amazingly, God
covenanted to save the world for one righteous Man. Christ
chose to be that One. Said Luther:
"Our most merciful Father, seeing us to be oppressed and
overwhelmed with the curse of the law, and so to be holden under the
same that we could never be delivered from it by our own power, sent
his only Son into the world and laid upon him all the sins of all men,
saying: Be thou Peter that denier; Paul that persecutor, blasphemer
and cruel oppressor; David that adulterer; that sinner which did eat
the apple in Paradise; that thief which hanged upon the cross; and
briefly, be thou the person which hath committed the sins of all men;
see therefore that thou pay and satisfy for them. Here now cometh the
law and saith: I find him a sinner, and that such a one as hath taken
upon him the sins of all men, and I see no sins else but in him;
therefore let him die upon the cross. And so he setteth upon him and
killeth him. By this means the whole world is purged and cleansed
from all sins, and so delivered from death and all evils. Now sin and
death being abolished by this one man, God would see nothing else
in the whole world, especially if it did believe, but a mere cleansing
and righteousness." – Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians
(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans' Publishing Co., 1930), p.
On the cross, Christ exhausted the penalty of the law
and provided a pardon. He reconciled the prerogatives of
justice and mercy. Two things were accomplished: the
integrity of God's law was upheld, and salvation was
provided for sinners. The object of the atonement was not
only redemption for the fallen race, but that the divine law
and government might be maintained and vindicated. As
Flavell, that great Puritan author, said, "Never was the law
of God more honored as when the Son of God stood before
its bar of justice to make reparations for the sins of men."
The cross enables God to justify sinners without detracting
from the dignity or claims of His righteous law.
Having given to the law all it required of the fallen
race, Christ cried, "It is finished!" On the cross He
destroyed sin, abolished death, defeated Satan, opened
Paradise and shut the gates of hell. It was for us He did it.
His victory is ours. It was secured in our name. The
incarnation means that we were in Him when He lived and
died. Therefore we have fulfilled the law in Him. If the
football fan can cry, "We have won!" when his team wins,
how much more should we cry, "We have won!" as we
identify ourselves with the life and death of Jesus. This is
the gospel. We have won – by Him and in Him. We have
been redeemed by perfect obedience to the law of God –
not ours but His. (And yet, what is His is ours.) This is an
eternal victory. Genuine Christian experience comes by
glorying in His.
By Blood and Water
"But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and
forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bear
record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that
ye might believe." John 19:34, 35.
The Blood. "Much more then, being now justified
by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him."
Rom. 5:9. Sinners are justified by Christ's perfect
obedience and satisfaction which He gave to the divine law
on our behalf. The gospel takes the law seriously. "...the
doers of the law shall be justified." Rom. 2:13. When we
believe on Jesus, His doing and dying are credited to us,
and thus we are justified by perfect obedience to the law.
Justification and faith have no meaning apart from the law
The Water. "He that believeth on Me, as the
Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of
living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they
that believe on Him should receive...)" John 7:38, 39. The
benefits of the new covenant are renewal by the Holy Spirit
as well as forgiveness. Writes the apostle, "...This is the
covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith
the Lord, I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their
minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I
remember no more." Heb. 10:16, 17.
Let those who want to major on experience and the
Holy Spirit, measure up to the great office work of the
Spirit. True experience is important. It is not rapture and
ecstatic feelings, but it is having the law which Christ died
to vindicate written in our hearts and carried out in our
lives. This is worth more than all the noise of the
charismatic movement. The "normal" Christian life of
faithfulness and obedience must not be undervalued. It may
not be as spectacular as some other things that people tend
to run after, but it is of great price in the sight of God. Let
those who value miracles consider that the greatest miracle
is a life that is loyal, faithful, reverent, holy, respectful,
pure, honest, truthful and contented.
Says Melanchthon in his Apology:
"It is written in the prophet Jer. 31, 33: 'I will put My law in
their inward parts and write it in their hearts.' And in Rom. 3, 31, Paul
says, 'Do we, then, make void the Law through faith? God forbid!
Yea, we establish the law.' And Christ says, Matt. 19, 17: 'If thou wilt
enter into life, keep the commandments.' Likewise, 1 Cor. 13, 3: 'If I
have not charity it profiteth me nothing.' These and similar sentences
testify that the Law ought to be begun in us, and be kept by us more
and more [that we are to keep the Law when we have been justified
by faith, and thus increase more and more in the Spirit]. Moreover we
speak not of ceremonies, but of that Law which gives commandment
concerning the movements of the heart, namely the Decalogue.
Because, indeed, faith brings the Holy Ghost, and produces in hearts
a new life, it is necessary that it should produce spiritual movement
in hearts. And what these movements are, the prophet Jer. 31, 33
shows, when he says: 'I will put My Law into their inward parts, and
write it in their hearts.' Therefore, when we have been justified by
faith and regenerated, we begin to fear and love God, to pray to Him,
to expect from Him aid, to give thanks and praise Him, and to obey
Him in afflictions. We begin also to love our neighbors, because our
hearts have spiritual and holy movements [there is now, through the
Spirit of Christ a new heart, mind, and spirit within]." – Book of
Concord, p. 42.
The Formula of Concord well says:
"For the Law says indeed that it is God's will and command
that we should walk in a new life, but it does not give the power and
ability to begin and do it; but the Holy Ghost, who is given and
received, not through the Law, but through the preaching of the
gospel, Gal. 3:14, renews the heart. Thereafter the Holy Ghost
employs the Law so to teach the regenerate from it, and to point out
and show them in the Ten Commandments what is the [good and]
acceptable will of God, Rom. 12:2, in what good works God hath
before ordained that they should walk, Eph. 2, 10." – Ibid., p. 262.
And yet we must always remember that mortal man can
never reach a point in the Spirit-filled life where his
fellowship with God does not rest entirely on justification
by the blood of Christ.
John the apostle says, "Beloved, believe not every
spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because
many false prophets are gone out into the world." 1 John
4:1. How shall we try the spirits? Isaiah declares, "To the
law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to
this word, it is because there is no light in them." Isa. 8:20;
cf. v. 16. That is to say, we must try them by the law and
As the "fire... from heaven" deceives multitudes with
sensational wonders (Rev. 13:13), God will have a people
whose faith and experience meet the two-fold test of the
law and the gospel. Says the revelator:
"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having
the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and
to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a
loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His
judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and
the sea, and the fountains of waters... Here is the patience of the
saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the
faith of Jesus."
"And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud
One sat like unto the Son of man, having on His head a golden crown,
and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the
temple, crying with a loud voice to Him that sat on the cloud, Thrust
in Thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for Thee to reap; for the
harvest of the earth is ripe." Rev. 14:6, 7, 12, 14, 15.
– This article was written by the former editor and appears
in Present Truth Vol. 1, #5.