Q&A: Many churches adopt confessions, why then do leaders and laypersons often stray from orthodoxy? What lessons can we learn from this?
Q. Many churches adopt confessions, why then do leaders and laypersons often stray from orthodoxy? What lessons can we learn from this?
A. Confessions are good and have biblical precedent. Humans, however, are fallen and as 1 Timothy 4:1 says, “some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” People are lovers of self rather than lovers of God (2 Tim. 3:2-4). That is why there are problems with heterodoxy and heresy, even where there are solid confessions in place. Confessions may not keep false teaching from emerging but it is helpful to have them in place to quench the spread (like gangrene) of unhealthy teaching.
One lesson we learn from the prevalence of unhealthy belief and teaching is the importance of qualified leaders. It is vital that pastors/elders be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2) and correct opponents of the truth (2 Tim. 2:25). We also see the important place of church discipline. The church is set apart as the light of the world and the “pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) if the truth is not proclaimed and protected by the church how dark will the darkness be?!
The second lesson is that churches must work hard to be watchful and stand firm in the faith (1 Cor. 16:13). If someone is contradicting orthodox teaching and causing division then they should be removed from the church community (1 Tim. 6:20-21; 2 Tim. 3:5; Titus 3:10). The church is to be the set apart people of God (Eph. 1:4; 5:27). Thus, Paul writes “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter” (2 Thess. 2:15).
Church membership is often not the priority it should be. There are a few possible explanations for this: (1) lack of understanding of church membership and its importance, (2) lack of commitment, or (3) a lack of desire to submit to biblical authority. This will only cover the first issue, lack of understanding. I think it can be assumed that if you are a Christian you should be committed (see for example Rom. 12:1) and you should submit to biblical authority (see for example Heb. 13:17).
What is Church Membership?
When a person is born again by the Spirit they instantly become a member of the invisible universal Church body. Church membership is a formal covenant of a believer to a local visible church body for mutual growth and accountability.
Reasons for and Advantages of Church membership
There are several reasons to be connected to a local church body: worshiping together (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19-21), equipping (Col. 1:28; Eph. 4:12-13), exhortation and teaching (1 Tim. 4:13), exercising spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-7; 1 Pet. 4:10-11), church discipline (Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5), sharing the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:17-20; Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24), celebrating baptism (Matt. 28:19), giving (Matt. 23:23; 1 Tim. 6:17-19), encouragement (Heb. 10:24-25), as well as, having faithful leaders to care for and help you (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9).
There are also several advantages to church membership. Church discipline may not seem like an advantage but it is. It may be the very thing to deliver a soul from hell (1 Cor. 5:5), this is a true and gracious advantage. As a church member you can enter into the life of the church in a unique way such as voting on specific church issues. Church membership is a covenant of commitment one to another. Through church membership you clearly know who your brothers and sisters are and pastors/elders know who exactly they are responsible for. Members have church resources available to them that otherwise would not be. Members also very often have more opportunities to serve in the churches various ministries. Lastly, church membership is biblical.
Church Membership is Biblical
“Biblical? Where is the chapter and verse?” you ask. Well, there is no chapter and verse that states explicitly that you must join a church. Yet, I believe we can see it implicit in the New Testament. In the book of Acts we see that the early churches’ practice was to baptize believers and then add them to the church (Acts 2:41, 47; 5:14; 16:5). In fact, those that were saved and baptized in the early church “devoted themselves” (which could have taken the form of a formal covenant) to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, and prayer (Acts 2:41-42).
There is no explicit text calling believers to belong to a church because it was everywhere assumed and practiced in the early church so there was no need for a formal statement. Also, many of the first churches were smaller house churches so membership or commitment would be more easily recognized (especially under persecution). However, many churches are much larger today so it serves the leadership of the church and the church as a whole to keep track of those who have formally covenanted to church membership.
We see that there was a list of widows that were entitled to financial support (1 Tim. 5:9) and there may also have been a growing list of church members (see for example Acts 2:41, 47; 5:14; 16:5). Churches would also write a letter of commendation (Acts 18:27; Rom. 16:1; Col. 4:10; cf. 2 Cor. 3:1-2) for believers that were moving to a different area. This leads us to conclude that church roles were likely kept in the early church. However, even if they did not have a formal list they obviously knew who was part of the body and this was very important to them and should be to us as well.
We also see a New Testament mandate for godly qualified leadership. Men who are called to shepherd the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2) by laboring (1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 5:17), and watching over souls (Heb. 13:17). Pastors (a synonym of elders and shepherds) will give an account to God of how they shepherded so it is important that they know who their sheep are.
Church membership is implied from church discipline (see Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 1 Tim. 5:20; Titus 3:10-11) and it assumes that the elders of the church will know who the members of the church are. We also see much biblical imagery that points us to church membership. The church is called: body, bride, family, royal priesthood. These things suggest tight connection, even formal covenant. We as the church are to be like an outpost in enemy territory, an embassy amongst a distant land. If you are a citizen of the heavenly Kingdom you should be connected to the local embassy. The church is that embassy, the church represents the Kingdom of God on earth.
Local church membership, though obviously not required for salvation, is vital. It is my prayer that more and more believers would covenant together as the body and bride of Christ to be committed together to be and do what Christ our Lord has called us to do with the short time that we have here to labor for our Lord.
Introductory: Jonathan Leeman, Church Membership
In-depth: Jonathan Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love
Too often legalism is not really legalism but a mere cop-out. If we are confronted with something difficult we know we should do (or shouldn’t do) it is easier to label it legalism and thus not have to worry about doing it. We often, in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, excuse “ourselves from single-minded obedience to the word of Jesus on the pretext of legalism and a supposed preference for an obedience ‘in faith.'” We should not use are freedom as a cover-up, or copout, but we should live as servants of God (cf. 1 Peter 2:16) and servants do whatever it is their master tells them to do.
In Romans, there were two ditches that Paul wanted those on the gospel road to avoid; the ditch of legalism and the ditch of license (i.e. antinomianism which basically means anti-law). One of the main things Paul was addressing in his letter to the Romans was legalism and the opposite of legalism, license. Thomas Schreiner points out that “the Jews of Paul’s day had distorted the law and used it for legalistic purposes.” He was writing to Jews and Gentiles and defending the gospel to them. Some of them, to whom Paul wrote, believed that they were saved by works of the law while others believed that instead of keeping the law, even the law of Christ, they should sin and let grace abound.
Paul told the two groups that they were both wrong. He told them that no one is saved by works but that salvation comes by faith in Christ. He told them that people are saved by faith but faith is not passive, it is active. He told them that they are not to sin that grace may abound. He told them that none are saved by works but he called them all to works. Here we will seek to apply Paul’s dealing with the Jews and Gentiles to the problem of legalism and license in our present day. Often times in today’s day we go over the rumble strip on the gospel road and then we overcorrect and go into the ditch of legalism or the ditch of antinomianism but Paul exhorts us to stay out of the ditches and keep to the gospel.
There are two types of legalism: salvation by works and extra-biblical commands that are not found in Scripture. The first, salvation by works, is a grave and damning doctrine. Robertson McQuilkin says that:
“Relying on obedience to moral law or observance of ceremonial law for salvation (Rom. 3:20, 28; Gal. 2:16; 3:11, 21) has been the historic theological meaning of legalism. Much of what Paul wrote to the churches in Rome and Galatia was to combat this deadly heresy… It has ever been man’s method of attempted salvation.”
This type of legalism is grave and damning because, as Thomas Schreiner says, it “has its origin in self-worship. If people are justified through their obedience to the law, then they merit praise, honor, and glory. Legalism, in other words, means the glory goes to people rather than God.”
“Legalism claims that the death of Jesus on the cross was either unnecessary or insufficient. It essentially says to God, ‘Your plan didn’t work. The cross wasn’t enough and I need to add my good works to it to be saved.’” This is a despicable thing. Imagine going to a king who you have severely rebelled against and offering a dirty, nasty, bloody rag, as payment to fix your rebellion. This king would surely be insulted and not forgive you your rebellion but rather count that as further rebellion. He would send you, the rebel, to the racks to be tortured. The insult to the king would be all the more insulting if he had provided a way for you, the rebel, to go free from your due punishment by suffering the punishment himself. We serve a King who suffered the death and punishment we deserved; we can but except His gift of righteousness. We cannot offer our own righteousness to Him. Our righteousness is but bloody rags. However, praise the Lord, Jesus canceled our debt and nailed it to the cross (Col. 2:14)!
The second form of legalism is extra-biblical commands that lead to “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:5). This type of legalism doesn’t come right out and say your saved by works but it does teach as doctrines the commandments of men (Matt. 15: 1-9; Mk. 7:1-7). To say that we must obey things that scripture doesn’t say we must obey is the second form of legalism that I am addressing. Many in this camp, as Bryan Chapell has said, think of God as a “perpetual Santa Clause who is making a list and checking it twice to punish the naughty and reward the nice.”
McQuilkin points out that “it is quite possible to teach salvation by grace through faith alone and yet be legalistic.” This is the group of Christians who are known more for what they are against rather than what they are for; namely, the good news of Jesus Christ. This group’s slogan tends to be something like; “we don’t dance, we don’t chew, and we don’t go with girls that do.” Paul would rebuke both of these groups.
We find in scripture that the law was made to increase transgression so the power is not in more laws but in Christ who has fulfilled the law perfectly. It is in and through Christ that we keep the law. It is also by God the Spirit’s empowerment that we can work to fulfill the law of Christ. We do not need more commands or works to make us righteous, rather we need Christ our King to make us righteous.
License (antinomianism) in our present day is at least partially an overcorrection to legalism. Legalism is a grave teaching, in part, because it casts a long dark shadow over the implicit and explicit commands in scripture. “Legalism” as Randy Alcorn says “can be a convenient label to cover our unwillingness to obey God.”
Antinomianism is often a reaction and repulsion to legalism; however, antinomianism does not get the gospel right either. Antinomianism also stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the gospel just as legalism does; however, they are different misunderstandings. Often times our reaction to being saved by faith alone is to leave it alone but as we know true faith is never alone. We, in fact, are saved by faith alone but true faith can never be left alone. Legalism gets the “faith alone” part wrong, whereas, antinomianism gets the “never alone” part wrong.
The Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms says,
“Generally, Christian theology has rejected antinomianism on the basis that although Christians are not saved through keeping the law, we still have a responsibility to live uprightly, that is, in obedience to God’s law of love in service to one another (Gal 5:13-14) as we walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16) who continually works to transform us into the image of Christ the Creator (Col 3:1, 7-10).”
So, typically within evangelicalism antinomianism is denied. It is denied on paper but often times in our hearts and heads we reject not anti-law but the law of Christ. It is because it is too difficult to live and love as Christ that we are anti-law of Christ. We often feel it is too hard to live radically and be like Christ so we do not even heed the exhortations to be like him we instead deny them as legalistic. What we do not realize is that by Christ’s death and resurrection we do have the power because we have God the Spirit indwelling us.
Often those that are anti-law (though, they may not say they are anti-law) say that to uphold biblical commands, especially, some of the more radical commands is legalism, however, this does not fit either definition of legalism. We are in fact to uphold all the biblical commands and admonishments, however uncomfortable they are and however radical they are. McQuilkin similarly says, “The term legalism is applied by most people to attitudes and activities that are thoroughly biblical or at least legitimate.” It is antinomian to label things legalistic that are legitimate mandates for the Christian. This reaction to what we are called to as Christians has given us an excuse to avoid a life of joyful conformity to the life of the cross, the Christ-like life. McQuilkin further points out that:
“The existence of a set of rules and regulations or a code of law does not constitute legalism (Gal. 6:2; 1 Tim. 3:2; Rom. 8:2). If on the basis of our spiritual blessing in Christ we are expected to walk worthy of our calling and obey the commands of God, then a desire to obey God does not constitute legalism (Eph. 1:3; 4:1; 5:8; Phil. 1:27). Having to do something is not legalism (1 Tim. 3:2; Eph 5:28; 2 Thess. 1:3; Rom. 15:27). Paul spoke of owing, being indebted, obligated-having to do something. Having a list of don’ts is not legalism (Rom. 12:2; Col. 3:9; Gal. 6:9; Eph. 4:25-5:18; 1 John 2:13).”
If we feel as though we do not have to obey God’s Law, we will disobey God’s Law; the opposite of the law is lawlessness. We must obey because to not obey is to disobey. The problem we face in our discussion of legalism is people’s misunderstanding of what and why we are to obey. I cannot tell you everything that you must obey but I do believe that far too often we label things as legalistic when they are rather legitimate commands and exhortations from scripture.
Two groups are anti-law. The first group is against any law and only believes in grace and freedom to do whatever the heart desires; this extreme is not very common. The second form is much less extreme; they simply do not believe that it is necessary to live out the commands and admonishments of scripture and often instead paint them as legalistic although they are legitimate and do not claim to bring justification in any form. Just like legalism both of these groups that are anti-law would be rebuked by Paul. What then is the answer that Paul gives to the two opposing ditches of the gospel? In the next section, we will see his solution.
How did Paul deal with those that insisted that people are saved by works and how did Paul deal with those saying that works are of no significance? This is what we hope to discover, explain and apply to our present situation. I hope to apply this to the two groups of legalists and the two groups that are anti-law.
Paul repeatedly says that no one is justified by works and in fact if people were than Christ would have died for no purpose (Gal. 2:21). If one reads and rightly understands Romans 3:9-19 they will understand what Paul says next; that “by works of the law no human being will be justified” (Rom. 3:20). Part of the reason why we cannot be justified by works is that nothing good dwells in us, that is, in our flesh. For even if we have the desire to do what is right, we do not have the ability to carry it out (from Rom. 7:18). Schreiner says that “Paul rejected the law as a way of salvation because human inability to obey it. No one can be justified by works of the law because no one can keep the law perfectly.”
Paul says that salvation is by grace, which is unmerited favor, so it is not on the basis of works, otherwise grace would not be grace; it would not be unmerited (from Rom. 11:6). Paul says that no one is saved by works but that anyone that is saved is saved by Jesus Christ’s work on the cross. The righteousness of God is obtained not by our obtaining it on our own but rather it is through faith in Jesus Christ (3:22). We are justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus as a gift (3:22) and gifts are given, they are not worked for. Through Jesus, we have obtained access by faith into the grace in which we stand (5:2); it is through Jesus by faith not by our works. “There is no salvation by balancing the records. There is only salvation by canceling records.” It is the very fact that God the Son once and for all balanced our records that causes us to live radical God-exalting lives. It is not the other way around. God does not balance our records because we live for him, we live for him because he eternally balanced our records.
We have been justified by his blood (5:9) and not our works. That is why Schreiner says “we do not gain righteousness by working for God, but by letting him work for us.” Paul who had been a Pharisee of Pharisees or you may even say legalist of legalists, exclaimed, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (7:24). Paul, a formal legalist, saw that he could not merit God’s favor so he answers his question in praise “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (7:25). Salvation is through Christ and Christ alone can deliver us from our bodies of death.
If people are not in Christ no matter how sincere their good works are they are still condemned but there is no longer condemnation for those that are in Christ who trust in Him for salvation and not their works (8:1). It says in Romans 10:9 that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” We are justified by faith alone apart from works (3:28) but then what place do works play? Should we sin that grace may abound (6:1)? If our good works do not save us, why should we perform good works?
The law for Israel was a blessing but part of the reason it existed was to bring knowledge of sin. Paul himself said that without the law he would not have known that coveting was sin (7:7). The law increased knowledge of sin (3:31) and the amount of sins (the more rules there are the more rules there are to break). Schreiner similarly says, “Sin’s tyranny holds sway through the law and is maximized through the law.” According to McQuilkin until a person
“Understands the just requirements of the law, a person will not seek salvation. So long as there is no great problem, one is not concerned about a solution. Until the ears of the heart are opened by the thunders of Sinai, one does not truly hear the beautiful grace note of Calvary. Thus the law and grace are two sides of the single coin of God’s salvation. Without grace, law is a terrifying destroyer. Without law, grace is meaningless.”
The law points us to our need for Christ because we cannot uphold the law; however, Christ perfectly fulfilled the law and brought to us a new covenant. Augustine said, “The law was given that grace might be sought; grace was given that the law might be fulfilled.” Christ changed the law, and I believe in doing so upped the ante. For we have always been commanded by God to be holy as He is holy but now after His incarnation, after His life on earth, we see more clearly what that means. We are to be like Him in His life and in His death.
We are now released from the law and now we serve in the new way of the Spirit (7:6). We still serve but now we serve by the empowerment of the Spirit. Douglas Moo points out that some Christians have taken the fact that we are not under law, but under grace “to mean that believers are no longer obliged to any set of commandments. But again, Paul is talking about the law—the law of Moses—and not any law in general.” Romans 7:4 says, “you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him [Jesus] who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” We are now released from the law but we now belong to Jesus and we are called to bear fruit for God or you could say we are called to good works for God.
We fulfill the law ultimately because we are in Christ and he has fulfilled the law. We have fulfilled the law because Christ has taken our sin upon himself and given us his righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21) but we are still to uphold the law, that is, the law of Christ. We are still commanded to do good works. We fulfill the law because we are in Christ but we are also told to, by the Spirit, fulfill the law by loving. Love is fulfilling of the law (Rom. 13:10). We fulfill the law by loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind; and our neighbor as our own self (Matt. 22:37-38). Jesus said in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you.” We are to love others just as Jesus has loved us (1 John 3:16-18; 4:9-12). This is no easy charge but by the power of God the Spirit indwelling us we can be equipped and transformed to love as Christ loved.
Romans 3:31, has been a difficult verse for commentators to understand, it says “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” Various understandings have been put forward about what it means to “uphold the law.” Moo says;
“Most interpreters think that the very next chapter supplies the answer. Paul’s stress on faith upholds the law because the law itself teaches that Abraham was justified by faith (Gn 15:6, quoted in 4:3). This might be right. But note that the word “law” is not being given its usual meaning… We therefore are encouraged to look for other possible interpretations.”
Schreiner says that this verse “recalls (Rom. 2:26-27) and anticipates his [Paul’s] positive comments on keeping the law (8:2-4; 13:8-10). The moral norms of the law still function as the authoritative will of God for the believer.”
Moo adds that this verse
“might mean that Christians uphold the law by obeying the command of love that Christ made the heart of new covenant ethics. But a better alternative is to look to Romans 8:4 for elaboration of 3:31. In this verse, Paul claims that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in believers. How is it fulfilled? Not by us, for we always fall short of the law’s demands, but by Christ, who perfectly obeys the law. Those who are “in Christ” therefore fulfill the demand of the law.”
Schreiner chimes in again and says, “The idea is not precisely that the law is fulfilled by faith in Christ (contra Moo 1991: 257), but rather that those who have faith in Christ will keep the law. Schreiner points out that Paul
“Wants to guard against a common misunderstanding here: some may have objected that if righteousness is not through the law, then the law is abolished…” but “…righteousness apart from the law’s commands does not mean that believers can dispense with moral norms of the law.”
I believe the point is that those who have faith will keep the law. “The work of the Spirit (8:2) and the work of Christ on the cross (8:3) enable believers to obey the law.” The believer is empowered by the Spirit to keep the law (7:6 cf. John 14:16-17; Gal. 5:16; Ezek. 11:19-20; 36:26-27) and in fact has kept the law perfectly in Christ. “Obedience to the… law has never been intended as the way of salvation but as the appropriate response to salvation already received.” When Paul, in Romans, proclaims the gospel he is not saying that people are saved by works or that works are not important but he is saying that because Christ saved us we should offer our very lives to God in worship. Moo says it this way, “The ‘indicative’ of what God has done for us does not render unnecessary the ‘imperative’ of what we are to do; rather, it stimulates it and makes it possible.”
Even in the Old Testament obeying God’s laws was not a means of obtaining salvation but rather an act of praise for salvation.
“God and Moses perceived obedience to the laws, not as a way of precondition to salvation, but as the grateful response of those who had already been saved. God did not reveal the law to Israelites in Egypt and then tell them that as soon as they had measured up to this standard He would rescue them. On the contrary, by grace alone, through faith they crossed the Red Sea to freedom. All that was required was belief in God’s promise that He would hold up the walls of water on either side and see them safely through to the other shore.”
It is precisely because we can never measure up to God’s holy and perfect standard that we offer our lives as worship because in Christ we now can measure up. Paul solves the problem of legalism and antinomianism by showing that good works are a response to salvation not the precursor to salvation. The legalist should now perform good works not because it will make him righteous but because Christ has made him righteous and likewise those who are anti-law should live by the law of Christ because Christ has set them free from the damning affects of the law.
Peter said to “live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16). Similarly, Paul said, “You were called to freedom brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal. 5:13). In Christ, yes, we are freed from the damning affects of the law but it does not say we are freed from obeying the law (Rom. 3:31). On the contrary, we are now free to obey the law. We are now, in Christ and by the Spirit, free to serve Him because we are now free from the slavery of sin, and are now slaves of righteousness (cf. Rom. 6:18-22). So freedom does not merely mean that the restrictions and commands are gone, though praise the Lord many are, but it means that we have power and joy in living within the purposeful, so called, “restrictions” and commands. We no longer must obey the written code but we must follow the law of Christ and bear the fruits of the Spirit “against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:23).
In Romans Chapter six, essentially the same question is asked twice “are we to sin that grace may abound?” (6:6; 15) and both times Paul’s response was “By no means!” Paul basically gives Jesus’ argument that a good tree bears good fruit. Paul said that you are slaves to whom you obey, either to sin which leads to death or obedience that leads to righteousness (6:16). In other words, if you are a good slave, you will serve God, the good master, and if you are bad slave, you will serve Satan, the bad master. Schreiner rightly adds:
“The illustration from slavery is inadequate because the relationship believers have with God is shorn of all the negative elements present in slavery. We should not conclude, though, that the slavery illustration is a poor one (cf. Schlatter 1995: 149; Moo 1991:619). For the image of slavery rightly denotes that God is our master, to whom we owe total commitment.”
Paul “is not here teaching that a Christian ought to be a slave of righteousness but that every Christian, by divine creation, is made a slave of righteousness and cannot be anything else.” You will know a slave by the master they serve. John MacArthur says, “All men are either mastered by sin, which is to say they are under the lordship of Satan, or they are mastered by righteousness, which is to say they are under the lordship of Jesus Christ.”
We were once slaves of sin but now are slaves of righteousness so we serve God not because it saves us but because we have a new Master and this loving Master gives us the free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Those who live under grace show that they are under grace because they have a new master (God) and are liberated from their old master (sin). Paul refuses to accept any abstract understanding of grace separated from concrete daily living. Grace does not merely involve the forgiveness of sins. It also involves power in which the mastery and dominion of sin is broken.”
John Stott says, “Conversion is an act of self-surrender; self-surrender leads inevitably to slavery; and slavery demands a total, radical, exclusive obedience.” Paul does not appeal to the Romans to obey God and perform good works to earn salvation but because in Christ they have obtained salvation. “Obedience neither produces nor maintains salvation, but it is an inevitable characteristic of those who are saved.”
Paul is obviously not legalistic because he defends passionately that salvation is by grace alone and through faith alone; it is a gift of God so that no one can boast. He also tells the Romans that they are not to sin that grace may abound and he calls them to radical gospel living. “Only the Son of God could have paid the cost of salvation. But He calls His followers to pay the cost of discipleship (Note: Matt. 16:24-25).
In the same place, that Paul says that salvation is not by good works (against legalism) he calls them to good works (against antinomianism). So what is meant by good works? Good works:
“Conduct or actions that may be deemed good or morally upright. In Christian thought, such acts are motivated by love for God and flow out of the desire to obey God’s will. They are not intended as means to merit divine favor or means for personal gain, but are expressions of gratitude to God for the divine unmerited favor already received, and they are an integral part of the life of devotion to God and imitation of Christ. Finally, good works are not the products of human effort alone, but are the outworking of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.”
McQuilkin rightly adds to the definition by saying “God appeals to his children to obey both from a hope of a reward and a fear of loss (Ezek. 3:17-21; 33:7-9; Dan. 12:3; 1 Cor. 3:10-15). But the highest motive is love. Obedience out of gratitude for all the gifts of grace is the best antidote to the virus of legalism.”
In Romans 6:19, Paul says “present your members as slaves to righteousness.” John Stott has said, “Conversion is an act of self-surrender; self-surrender leads inevitably to slavery; and slavery demands a total, radical, exclusive obedience.” We were slaves to sin, we obeyed it as our master, but now we are slaves to righteousness, to God, now we serve a new Master (Rom. 6:15-22). We must obey our Master. However, we must be further reminded that our Master made it possible to serve Him, by serving us on the cross, whereby we our obedient slaves (justified) and capable of obedience (sanctification).
Paul reminds the Romans that though they use to belong to another and they used to serve the sinful flesh, now they serve God and are told to bear good fruit (7:4). Paul calls the Romans to present their bodies as living sacrifices but he grounds it in worship (12:1). Martin Luther adds we “owe (God) a reasonable sacrifice and not animal sacrifices, for this is proper according to the new Law (of love).” Radical living out the gospel is a result of worship of God and not trying to earn worth from God. In Romans 12:6-21 we see that Paul is clearly not against the law. He calls the Romans too many good works but once again not to merit grace but because of the grace that God has shown. He calls them to hate what is evil (12:9), contribute to the needs of the saints (12:13), and not to be slothful in zeal but be fervent in spirit (12:11) among other things.
There is almost a paradoxical nature to salvation. We are saved by faith alone but faith is never alone. A good tree bears good fruit and a servant of righteousness will show he is a servant of righteousness by serving God and being righteous. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Luther had taught that man cannot stand before God, however religious his works and ways may be, because at the bottom he is always seeking his own interests…” yet “…grace had cost [Luther] his very life, and must continue to cost him the same price day by day.” Also, look at what grace cost Paul, the author of Romans, himself. It cost him beatings… and his very life. What might grace “cost” us?
“The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ. Such a man knows that the call to discipleship is a gift of grace, and that the call is inseparable from the grace. But those who try to use this grace as a dispensation from following Christ are simply deceiving themselves.”
We are saved by faith alone and Jesus is our Savior but he is also our Lord. Christ cannot be our Savior if he is not also our Lord. “The gospel demands that we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and live out the implications of that lordship.”
As we have seen in Romans, as in scripture in general, the author will have a moral command or some sort of admonishment but then will ground it in the gospel. You see this same thing in the Old Testament, for example in Leviticus 11:44-45, God calls the Israelites to be holy and then says for, or because, I brought you out of Egypt. We, as Christians, are not simply given bland commands that we are to follow; we are given reasons why we should joyfully and radically serve God. We are told in Romans 15:1-3 not to please ourselves but instead to please others because “Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’”
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 80. Elsewhere, he said,
“When we are called to follow Christ, we are summoned to an exclusive attachment to his person. The grace of his call bursts all bonds of legalism. It is a gracious call, a gracious commandment. It transcends the difference between the law and the gospel. Christ calls, the disciple follows: that is grace and commandment in one. ‘I will walk at liberty, for I seek thy commandments’ (Ps. 119:45)” [Ibid., 59.].
 Law in Greek is the word nomos (Greek: nomos) so antinomianism (anti nomos) literally means against law or anti law.
 Thomas R. Schreiner, The Law & Its Fulfillment: A Pauline Theology of Law (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993), 93.
 The second type may or may not be implied by scripture because peoples understanding of the application of scripture is different. The culture in which we live may be different and therefore reflect differently how we are to respond to different scenarios. Note Paul’s argument on food offered to idols in Romans 14 and first Corinthians 8.
 Robertson McQuilkin, An Introduction to Biblical Ethics (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1995), 54.
 Schreiner, The Law & Its Fulfillmen,15.
 C.J. Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2002), 25.
 Isaiah 64:6: Bloody rags refer to rags that women would use when they were on their menstrual cycle.
 Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, 298.
 Robertson McQuilkin, An Introduction to Biblical Ethics (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1995), 54.
 Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions, and Eternity (Carol Stream, Il: Tyndale House, 2003), 187.
 Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki, Cherith Fee Nordling Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press,1999), 12.
 Note: Gal. 6:2; 5:14.
 It should be noted here that not all commands still apply to us New Testament believers and I also realize that there will be various understandings of these commands and thus various ways and degrees to which these commands will be lived out.
 Robertson McQuilkin, An Introduction to Biblical Ethics (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1995), 56.
 Robertson McQuilkin quotes Paul Wright from class notes on “Legalism” (Columbia, S.C.: Columbia Bible Seminary and Graduate School of Missions). Robertson McQuilkin, An Introduction to Biblical Ethics (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1995), 57-58.
 Schreiner, The Law & Its Fulfillment, 44
 John Piper, The Passion of Jesus Christ (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), 33.
 Schreiner, The Law & Its Fulfillment, 97-98.
 Ibid., 83.
 McQuilkin, An Introduction to Biblical Ethics, 65.
 Ibid., 63.
 Douglas J. Moo, Encountering the Book of Romans (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 116.
 Note: 1 Cor. 13.
 Moo, Encountering the Book of Romans, 87.
 Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 207-08.
 Moo, Encountering the Book of Romans, 87-88.
 Schreiner, Romans, 208.
 Schreiner, The Law & Its Fulfillment, 151.
 Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England –Gen. Editors Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Reference, 2003), 1016.
 Moo, Encountering the Book of Romans, 116.
 Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England –Gen. Editors Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Reference, 2003), 1016.
 I say it this way because if a kid was playing in the front yard and was “restricted” from playing in the road it is not merely a restriction but a loving restriction or loving bondrey. If we have the outlook that the rules that God gives us are simply commands and restrictions it takes the fatherly love out of the equation; something that is very important to have for any child to obey his parents. So, God’s commands and restrictions should rather be looked at as loving wisdom, though, at times harsh, that a father shares with his child.
 Schreiner, Romans, 333.
 John MacArthur Romans 1-8 (Chicago: Moody Press,1991), 344.
 Ibid., 343.
 Schreiner, Romans, 332-33.
 John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 183.
 Schreiner, Romans, 347.
 Ibid., 353.
 Stanley J. Grenz and Jay T. Smith, Pocket Dictionary of Ethics (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 48.
 McQuilkin, An Introduction to Biblical Ethics, 56.
 Stott, The Message of Romans, 183.
 Martin Luther, Commentary on The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954), 151.
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 49.
 Ibid., 51.
 Moo, Encountering the Book of Romans, 117.
I was reading in Mark 5 today, where Jesus frees a demon-possessed man, and I got thinking about the early church. The early church must have been one messed up church, one messy church, literally dirt on the floors… No really, imagine all the different types of people and all the different types of problems. Ex-demon-possessed-people for instance probably brought with them their unique challenges. Tax collectors were not real popular with people in that day. Then you have Jews and Gentiles fighting, I’m sure, over all types of stuff.
No, they didn’t fight over the color of the carpet. They didn’t have any! But if they had carpet, they would have fought over that too. I guess, what I am trying to tell myself is, they didn’t have it all together. I may think that my church or the Church universal is in shambles at times but the church throughout history has always appeared that way in many areas. I guess that is part of the beauty and wonder of the church.
God said that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church and it is surely by His power that it has not been overcome. Like Paul says from 1 Corinthians, not many of us were super special by worldly standards. God so often chooses to use a rag-tag bunch, which I am very glad about, because He chooses to use people like me. He also chooses to use messy churches even though they, like the early church, are sometimes both literally and metaphorically messy.
It encourages me to remember that the Church then, as the Church now, will always face both external and internal challenges but will likewise always have Jesus the same Lord ultimately in control. It encourages me that though the church may be messy (and yes in both ways) it is doing ministry. It also reminds me that ministry is not just a church service—a meeting of people to hear a message—it is a group, a gathering, made up of individuals, and individuals with problems.
There are problems to fix, lives to be less messy, floors to mop (yes, we want the church to be presentable), but this is ministry. This is the church, a church that in a lot of ways reflects the biblical early church. Yes, a struggling church, but for a purpose, a grave and glorious purpose.
To sum it all up, I am encouraged by the church, the good and the bad, the messy and the clean. We have life (by the grace of almighty God!), and life is messy. There is a funny verse in Proverbs that says, where no oxen are the turf is clean but there is much increase from the help of an ox. The “turf” is certainly not always clean at church but there, I believe, is a lot being done by Christ’s body, and I praise God for it!
God calls us to be faithful, though we often are few. We must remember the amazing privilege it is to serve the King! Christ is redeeming His bride! Soon His Church shall presented spotless!
Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!